The US is poised to hit a record 16 million COVID-19 cases in the coming days and deaths are closing in on the 300,000 mark, even as millions of doses of a new vaccine are expected to start rolling out across America before Sunday.
The first vaccine was approved late Friday by the US Food and Drug Administration and is expected to touch off a mass-inoculation campaign of unparalleled dimension to end the pandemic that has upended daily life in the US and devastated its economy.
“FDA APPROVES PFIZER VACCINE FOR EMERGENCY USE!!!” President Donald Trump announced Friday night on Twitter, and he promised Americans the vaccinations would begin in less than 24 hours.
But the FDA said it might be several days before Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine would be administered.
The first batch of shots are expected to be aimed largely at health care workers and residents and staff of long term care facilities.
The approval of the Pfizer drug marks a turning point in the US where the pandemic has killed more than 295,000 people - more than any other nation in the world as the recent surge of infections has again overwhelmed healthcare systems.
The country reported its highest daily cases, more than 232,700 on Friday, according to Reuters tally. In the latest 7-day average, the US is reporting 2,411 deaths per day, the highest 7-day average since the pandemic started.
US coronavirus hospitalizations were 107,684 by end of Friday, highest so far.
On Nov. 21, the US hit a landmark 12 million cases.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who along with several other governors vowed to review the vaccine before allowing it in their states, announced late Friday that state officials have given the drug the green light.
“The vaccine is almost here,” the governor said on Twitter.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom touted the approval of the vaccine, calling it a “tremendous step forward.”
But he cautioned on Twitter, “It is critical that we continue to stay at home & wear a mask to save lives.”