FDA Authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

by Kristine Cannon
Biontech Pfizer vaccine
Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be sent nationwide over the next week

Nine months into this pandemic, and the U.S. has finally authorized its first vaccine against the novel coronavirus, the New York Times reports. Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use on Friday; and within days, millions of vulnerable people should start receiving the vaccine.

The authorization of the vaccine followed a 17-4 vote of confidence from an advisory panel of experts. And within 24 hours, the first doses should be shipped out nationwide, with healthcare workers and nursing home residents given the first doses.

“The FDA’s authorization for emergency use of the first COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone in battling this devastating pandemic that has affected so many families in the United States and around the world,” said FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, per Buzzfeed News. “The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life-threatening disease in an expedited timeframe after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the quick approval of the vaccine “inconceivable.”

“Actually having the vaccine in somebody’s arm in less than a year — 11 months to be exact, from January to the beginning of December — it would have been inconceivable to me a year or two or three ago,” Fauci said at a JAMA Network event on Friday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar echoed Fauci’s sentiment.

“It is nothing short of a medical miracle to have FDA authorization of a vaccine for COVID-19 just over 11 months since the virus was made known to the world,” Azar said in announcing the decision Friday night, per Los Angeles Times.

Fauci added the he plans to get the vaccine publicly, following a trend of other high-profile Americans vowing to do the same, including former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush — as a way to promote public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine.

“People like Anthony Fauci, who I know, and I’ve worked with, I trust completely,” Obama said in an interview with SiriusXM. “So, if Anthony Fauci tells me this vaccine is safe, and can vaccinate, you know, immunize you from getting COVID, absolutely, I’m going to take it.”

The COVID-19 vaccine developed Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech was shown to be 95 percent effective in clinical trials. Pfizer said that, in addition to delivering millions of doses across the U.S., including 327,000 to California, they can produce as many as 50 million doses by the end of the year.

But to those who believe that because we now have a vaccine, we’ll return to normal overnight. According to Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, expect “many more months of infection prevention,” including mask wearing and social distancing.

“Vaccines will not offer an overnight solution,” Daley said. “We need to brace ourselves for many more months of infection prevention and distancing measures as the vaccines are rolled out.”