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Thousands of vials of the long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine are slated to arrive in all 50 states Monday, as top US health officials express hope that health care workers can begin administering the injections immediately.
The news comes after the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine cleared its final hurdle: Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accepted an advisory committee's recommendation Saturday that the vaccine may be given to people 16 and older, meaning it can now be administered in the United States.
In a statement issued Sunday, Redfield announced he had accepted the recommendation from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The first vaccinations are "set to start as early as Monday," he said.
"This is the next step in our efforts to protect Americans, reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and help restore some normalcy to our lives and our country," he said in a statement.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar celebrated the first vaccination of a New York health care worker with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine candidate on Monday, saying it's "the American people's vaccine."
"We'll have about 20 million doses available to use for vaccination by the end of December. We'll get a total of 50 million people vaccinated by the end of January," Azar told "Varney & Co."
"It’s the American people’s vaccine thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, and what matters this week is getting our frontline health care workers protected and getting our most vulnerable senior citizens protected," he continued.
Senate Democrats are pressing the Trump administration to explain whether the United States could soon face a critical shortage of Covid-19 vaccine doses, citing recent reports that the White House passed on Pfizer’s repeated offers to purchase additional shots.
"We are concerned the failure to secure an adequate supply of vaccines will needlessly prolong the COVID-19 pandemic in this country, causing further loss of life and economic devastation," a group of senior lawmakers wrote to leaders of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine accelerator, in a letter shared with POLITICO.
The Trump administration in July agreed to purchase 100 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, which started rolling out across the country on Monday after the shot became the first to receive an emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The nearly $2 billion deal included an option to buy an additional 500 million shots of the two-dose vaccine.
The Democrats cite a New York Times report that the Trump administration declined to purchase more vaccines from Pfizer, even as other countries finalized agreements securing hundreds of millions of doses. The situation has raised concerns that the United States will face a "vaccine cliff" in the spring as many Americans wait for shots and other nations race ahead on vaccinating their populations. Pfizer also has said it's dealing with supply constraints amid global demand and needs to prioritize existing orders.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Monday touted the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine’s historic rollout as the first doses were shipped out the previous morning.
Adams said in an interview with FNC’s “Fox & Friends” that the new vaccine’s rollout is “the beginning of the end” of the race as the nation continues to deal with COVID-19.
“It’s a great day; it’s a historic day. This is the beginning of the end, but we have still got a few miles left to run in this race,” Adams stated.
With the vaccine being ready in record time, Adams shot down the notion of scientific corners being cut just for the sake of having a vaccine produced.
“There were no cutting of scientific corners,” he advised. “It was the cutting of administrative red tape. It was massive funding, which allowed us to scale up production even as the vaccine was being produced.”
“I want people to know this is the most difficult vaccine rollout in history,” Adams cautioned. “There will be hiccups, undoubtedly, but we have done everything from a federal level and working with partners to make it go as smoothly as possible. Please be patient with us, and please understand we are going to start by vaccinating the vulnerable: people in nursing homes and long term care facilities and healthcare workers.”