A second COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be recommended Thursday for emergency use in the United States, where COVID-19 has killed nearly 308,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
A committee of independent expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) likely will recommend the use of a vaccine developed by U.S. drug manufacturer Moderna, one week after federal regulators authorized the first vaccine for emergency use.
If the panel recommends the Moderna vaccine after considering its risks and benefits, FDA authorization could come as soon as Friday.
After the advisers endorsed the use of the first vaccine last week, the FDA authorized it for emergency use a day later.
That vaccine, developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, is being distributed throughout the U.S.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s distribution was threatened Wednesday and Thursday in northeastern U.S. states by the region’s first major winter snowstorm, which forecasters said may leave more than 30 centimeters of snow on parts of New England before heading out to sea later Thursday.
A massive inoculation program with an initial round of 2.9 million doses began Monday at U.S. hospitals and in long-term care facilities, as cases continued to surge across the U.S.
Thousands of people are dying daily, while intensive medical care units across the country are approaching capacity, threatening to overwhelm health care systems.
Both vaccines were about 95% effective in clinical trials, but Moderna’s requires less onerous cold storage requirements than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, making it a better choice for rural and remote areas.
Moderna, however, reported more frequent side effects from its 30,000-person trial than those reported by Pfizer. These were mainly short-term reactions to the vaccine, officials said.
FDA staffers did not mention any significant safety concerns about the Moderna vaccine in documents released on Tuesday in preparation for the meeting.
Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine project, told reporters Monday the U.S. plans to transport 6 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine if it is approved.
Operation Warp Speed scientific leader Moncef Slaoui said Monday that 20 million people in the U.S. will be vaccinated with either vaccine this month.
Slaoui estimated that 100 million people, about one-third of the U.S. population, could be inoculated by the end of the first quarter of 2021.