Nov. 25 (UPI) — More than 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses will be allocated to states and could begin distribution early next month, U.S. health officials say.
A Food and Drug Administration panel overseeing vaccines is set to meet in two weeks to consider granting emergency authorization to the potential vaccine under joint development by Pfizer and BioNTech — which has proven in clinical trials to be 95% effective.
“If all goes well, we could be distributing a vaccine soon after Dec. 10,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday.
Azar said 6.4 million doses of the vaccine will be distributed to states and territories based on population size rather than the number of people in high-risk groups, as was recommended by government health experts.
“We wanted to keep this simple,” Azar said. “We thought it would be the fairest approach, and the most consistent.”
Once the doses arrive, it will up to individual governors to decide how best to distribute them, he added.
Gen. Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, said the goal is to have 40 million doses distributed by the end of the year.
While the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will assess the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, the ultimate decision on an emergency authorization will rest with Commissioner Stephen Hahn.
“While we cannot predict how long the FDA’s review will take, the FDA will review the request as expeditiously as possible, while still doing so in a thorough and science-based manner, so that we can help make available a vaccine that the American people deserve as soon as possible,” Hahn said in a statement last week.
Pfizer and BioNTech have submitted an emergency authorization request to the FDA.