Coronavirus: US to start Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shots in December

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US Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Tuesday that if pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc submits its interim COVID-19 vaccine to health regulators as quickly as expected, the US government now expects to begin vaccinating Americans in December.

Pfizer on Monday said that the vaccine it has been developing with German partner BioNTech SE was 90 percent effective against COVID-19. It said it expects safety data next week that it needs in order to submit an application for emergency use authorization to the US Food and Drug Administration.

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Azar gave several network interviews, including to CNBC on Tuesday morning in which he said that the government would receive 20 million doses per month of the Pfizer vaccine starting at the end of this month. The US has a $2 billion contract for 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Azar said that final decisions are subject to a close look at the vaccine efficacy data, but based on recommendations to the government, it will likely start with inoculations of the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living, healthcare workers and first responders, with a goal to complete those shots by the end of January.

Azar said he anticipates more vaccines from other rivals soon, including Moderna, which is expected to announce its interim results at the end of the month.

“By the end of March, early April, we expect to have enough for every American who would like to be vaccinated,” Azar said.

Azar also said the US government would ensure equitable distribution of Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients, starting first with hospitals and areas where there are many cases.

“We’ll ensure equitable distribution, and we’ll work tightly with our governors,” Azar said, using the same process the government used with remdesivir, a drug used to treat people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Azar said health officials and Lily were exploring other ways to give the treatment outside hospitals, including outpatient infusion centers.

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