Officials from Operation Warp Speed say the first Americans to receive an experimental COVID vaccine could do so in a matter of weeks
While the coronavirus pandemic is worsening across the U.S., with daily case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths breaking records in almost all states, there is some good news: The first vaccine against COVID-19 has been submitted to the FDA for emergency use authorization, and a second is close behind. Now, officials from Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s vaccine effort, say the first round of Americans to receive the shot could do so as soon as December 11 — just weeks from now.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, appeared on a number of news shows over the weekend, including NBC’s Meet the Press and ABC’s This Week, where he gave some updates on what Americans might expect now that there could be a viable vaccine candidate.
Currently, an FDA vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet on December 10, and Slaoui said his agency is ready to begin rolling out their plans the day after emergency use authorization is granted.
“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I expect maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or the 12th of December,” he told CNN. “So I would expect, maybe, on day two after approval… hopefully the first people will be immunized across the United States.”
The current minimum age for the Pfizer vaccine is around 12 or 13, but Slaoui warned that the FDA might raise it to 16 as a condition of its emergency use authorization. No immunization candidate has yet been widely tested on children.
Slaoui also reminded viewers that at first, there isn’t going to be enough vaccine for everyone in the U.S., and frontline healthcare workers, the elderly, and people with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 will be the first to receive shots. The U.S. government has a $1.5 billion contract with Pfizer to produce and distribute more of the vaccine. Slaoui said that for life to return to “normal,” 70 percent of the population will need to be immunized. He estimates that could happen by May, if people are willing to get the shot.
Slaoui also addressed rumors spread by President Trump that news of the vaccine’s success in clinical trials was delayed until after the election, hurting his chances of winning.
“I don’t think any specific action has taken place to delay the vaccine,” Slaoui told ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.