NEW YORK / INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – U.S. health authorities, shipping services and hospitals were ready Friday to immediately launch a massive inoculation campaign of unmatched scale as federal regulators granted emergency approval. the first COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.
Last-minute preparations for the launch of the vaccine came as the death toll in the United States from the coronavirus pandemic approached 300,000 to date, ending weeks of sinisterly increasing infections and hospitalizations they have subjected health systems to the limit.
A further 2,902 deaths were reported in the US Thursday, a day after a record 3,253, a pace that is projected to continue for the next two to three months even as the distribution of available vaccine supplies increases.
The first injections are expected to be administered in a few days, spearheading an effort seen as critical to finally defeating a pandemic that has disrupted everyday life in the United States and devastated its economy. President Donald Trump said Friday night that vaccines would begin in less than 24 hours.
Moving at unprecedented speed, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday approved the emergency use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc with its German partner BioNTech.
Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico have already approved the Pfizer vaccine, and the US advisory panel is due to review a second vaccine, from Moderna Inc, next week.
Other candidate vaccines are in the works as the United States prepares for a campaign evoking polio vaccines for children during the 1950s and 1960s.
Delivery companies United Parcel Service and FedEx Corp were ready to ship millions of doses nationwide, giving vaccines top priority over other packages on their planes and trucks.
The plans call for U.S. marshals to provide security for vaccine shipments from manufacturing facilities to distribution sites, including acting as escorts for delivery trucks.
New York City officials announced plans to open a vaccine command center across the street from City Hall on Monday to coordinate distribution in the nation’s largest city. Special attention will be paid to the 27 worst-affected neighborhoods, largely populated by ethnic minorities, said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“This is unprecedented because it’s not just about logistics, it’s about making sure we earn the public’s trust, it’s about ensuring fairness,” de Blasio said at a press conference.
New York State expects to receive 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine the week of December 21, in addition to the 170,000 doses from Pfizer due to arrive this weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference.
Healthcare workers and seniors in long-term care facilities are expected to be the top recipients of a first round of 2.9 million injections this month, with initial limitations on supplies, meaning most The general public will have to wait months for vaccines to become widely available.
The Indiana University Health Center, one of the first hospitals designated to administer the vaccine, rehearsed its vaccination procedures on Friday, with pharmacists, nurses and doctors participating in drills to store, transport, and administer actual injections to patients. .
“We want to make sure we are perfectly prepared and open with a bang,” Kristen Kelley, director of infection prevention at IU Health, told Reuters.
Elsewhere, many healthcare workers were struggling just to keep up with a staggering number of cases while facing shortages of personnel and personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical gloves, gowns, and rapid diagnostic test kits.
“We don’t have enough. They are not readily available, they take too long and the supply chain is not running consistently, ”Konnie Martin, executive director of San Luis Valley Health, which runs the Regional Medical Center in Alamosa, Colorado.
The Alamosa hospital serves six mostly rural counties in southern Colorado that are home to about 50,000 residents.
The deployment to the United States faces significant logistical challenges in meeting President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of inoculating 100 million people, approximately one-third of the United States population, within 100 days of his inauguration on 20 from January.
But any American who wants a vaccine should be able to get it in May or June, US Under Secretary of Health Brett Giroir told Fox News on Friday.
Still, there is cause for concern about American skepticism towards vaccines, with just 61% saying they are open to getting vaccinated, a Reuters / Ipsos poll showed.
Meanwhile, the grim statistics continue to pile up as more than 200,000 cases were recorded in the United States per day for four consecutive days, with another 220,815 cases on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally of official data.
The United States has reported 15.6 million known infections as of Thursday.
State and local leaders have imposed a series of restrictions on social and economic life in recent weeks to curb the contagion, even as many Americans ignored urgent pleas to limit travel, refrain from unnecessary meetings and wear masks in public.
Cuomo announced that dinners at indoor restaurants in New York City, which resumed just over two months ago, will cease beginning Monday.
Compliance with these COVID-related closures has proven far from uniform.
A California youth basketball program whose leaders ignored restrictions on sports practices and games was found to be the source of a COVID-19 outbreak linked to at least 94 infections among players, coaches and others, public health officials said. in Santa Clara County near San Francisco. Friday.
COVID-related deaths in the US are projected to exceed 500.00 by April 1, according to an influential model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Brendan O’Brien, Susan Heavey, Peter Szekely, Sharon Bernstein, Ankur Banerjee and Anurag Maan; Written by Daniel Trotta and Steve Gorman; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Jonathan Oatis, Tom Brown and Raju Gopalakrishnan