WASHINGTON — Members of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force fanned out across Sunday talk shows to promise a rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines to millions of Americans by year-end.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the federal government hopes to quickly review and approve requests from two drugmakers for emergency approval of their COVID-19 vaccines.
While Adams said Pfizer Inc. “will be submitting” an Emergency Use Authorization request on Dec. 10 for the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech, Pfizer filed its EUA on Nov. 20, the first to seek such clearance. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee of outside experts will meet on Dec. 10 to review the Pfizer/BioNTech clinical trial data in public, which could precede rapid approval.
“We, from a federal perspective, have promised and set everything up so we can quickly review those EUAs and hopefully start sending out vaccines within 24 to 48 hours,” Adams said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Adams said he expects 40 million vaccine doses to be produced by the end of the year and for most Americans to have access to a vaccine by early in the second quarter of 2021.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” top U.S. infectious-diseases specialist Anthony Fauci said the government “almost certainly” will be vaccinating portions in the first priority of the population by the end of December.
“If we can hang together as a country and do these kinds of things to blunt these surges until we get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, we can get through this,” he said. “There really is light at the end of the tunnel.”
United Airlines Holdings Inc. began operating charter flights on Friday to position doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for quick distribution once approved, Dow Jones reported. A week ago, the chief executive officer of CVS Health Corp. said the pharmacy chain is ready to quickly vaccinate residents at thousands of long-term care facilities.
“It’s pretty much decided” that residents and staff of such care facilities, and health care workers in general, will be the first groups to get access to vaccines, former FDA administrator Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“There’s about 20 million health care workers who might be eligible, and about 3 million residents of long-term care facilities and staff of those facilities. Those will be the first group of patients who get access to it,” he said.
In a separate interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said COVID-19 jabs won’t be “centrally mandated” in the U.S., but that some local officials or employers might apply pressure to get people vaccinated.
“Any individual group can mandate vaccines in certain ways,” he said. “Individual units, be they hospitals or other organizations, can do that. It’s within their right to say, if you want to work with us, you’re going to have to get a vaccine.”
Fauci said he has some concern about the overall anti-vaccination movement, but said the COVID-19 jab research process has been “scientifically sound.”
“The process of determining whether it works, whether it’s safe and effective has been independent, by independent bodies, and transparent,” he said.
In his NBC interview, Fauci said he fears the virus’ spread will surge in the coming weeks into December. “We might see a surge superimposed upon the surge we’re already in,” he said. “I don’t want to frighten people, except to say it is not too late to do something about this.”
Adams also implored Americans to help stop the virus’ spread in the months remaining before a vaccine is widely available by wearing masks and avoiding gatherings.
“It’s going to get worse over the next several weeks,” Adams said, referring to the rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths resulting from the pandemic. “The actions we take over the next several days will determine how bad it’s going to get.”
Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, declined to recommend that all Americans who traveled or will travel during holidays quarantine afterward.
In an interview on CNN, Giroir said those who traveled should decrease unnecessary activities and quarantine only if they had close contact with someone known to have had COVID-19.
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