Vastavam web: The US gave the final go-ahead Friday to the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine, marking what could be the beginning of the end of an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans, according to a person familiar with the decision but not authorised to discuss it publicly. Shots for health workers and nursing home residents are expected to begin in the coming days after the Food and Drug Administration authorised an emergency rollout of what promises to be a strongly protective vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech.
Initial doses are scarce and rationed as the U.S. joins Britain and several other countries in scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible ahead of a long, grim winter. It will take months of work to tamp down the coronavirus that has surged to catastrophic levels in recent weeks and already claimed 1.5 million lives globally. The move sets off what will be the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history — but it also has global ramifications because it’s a role model to many other countries facing the same decision.
The world desperately needs multiple vaccines for enough to go around, and the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is the first based on rigorous scientific testing to emerge from that worldwide race — a record-setting scientific achievement that shaved years off the usual process. I don’t think you would have found a scientist on this planet that would have predicted this 11 months ago, said Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who advises the FDA. The U.S. is considering a second vaccine, made by Moderna Inc., that could roll out in another week. In early January, Johnson & Johnson expects to learn if its vaccine is working in final testing.
And China and Russia didn’t wait for final-stage tests before beginning vaccinations with some homegrown shots. About 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected in the first shipments around the country, according to officials with Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program. A similar amount is to be held in reserve for those recipients’ second dose. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee is poised to recommend who’s first in line. Expected to follow health workers and nursing homes are other essential workers, older adults and people at high risk because of other health problems. U.S. authorities don’t expect enough for the general population before spring, and that’s assuming there are no manufacturing glitches.
Emergency use means the vaccine still is experimental. Most important for would-be recipients to know: –Some protection begins after the first dose, but it takes a second dose three weeks later for full protection. It’s unclear how long protection lasts. The vaccine protects against COVID-19 illness, but no one yet knows if it can stop the silent, symptomless spread that accounts for roughly half of all cases. The ongoing study will attempt to answer that but for now, the vaccinated still will need to wear a mask and keep their distance.