After more than 15.3 million total infections, the United States is on the verge of obtaining a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
A special panel of the Food and Drug Administration was meeting Thursday to consider whether to grant emergency use authorization to the new vaccine developed by U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.
If the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommends the emergency authorization as expected, the FDA will most likely give its final consent as early as Friday or Saturday. The federal government will immediately ship 6.4 million doses of the vaccine across the United States, with frontline health care workers receiving top priority for the first inoculations.
The U.S. military will also prioritize its health care workers for its initial allocation of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which will be just under 44,000 doses. A Pentagon spokesperson told reporters Wednesday that the military will start inoculations “within a day or two” after the FDA approves the emergency use authorization. The vaccinations will be voluntary at first, but could become mandatory once the vaccine is fully licensed.
Thursday’s meeting is being held a day after the United States recorded more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day for the first time in the nearly yearlong pandemic.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has jumped to the front of the line in the global effort to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Britain became the first Western nation to begin mass inoculations of the drug on Tuesday, just days after the government’s medical regulatory agency approved the drug.