Public health impacts will be minimal for first few months
The country’s first coronavirus shots were administered on Monday to selected members of the general public after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization late Friday to the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The announcement comes as the country is reeling from a new surge of COVID-19 infections, with deaths now exceeding 3,000 people each day.
Now that the FDA has given the vaccine the green light, the federal government is able to start distributing it to states. However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee continues to debate and decide who should receive the vaccinations and when.
Earlier this month, the same CDC vaccine panel recommended that the first doses should be administered to health workers as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
However, each state can make its own decisions about whom to prioritize and where to administer the vaccines. The decisions are complicated by the vaccine’s logistical challenges, including the extreme cold storage temperatures it requires. Initial doses will be also extremely limited.
“The fact is vaccines are not going to have a public health impact for at least several months,” Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said Friday on a webcast hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed expects to ship 2.9 million doses to states within 24 hours of authorization, but even under perfect conditions, the general population likely won’t get vaccinated until late spring or summer 2021. Until then, health officials are warning everyone that the coming months will be dire.
The vaccine is intended to be administered in two doses given three weeks apart, and officials said they intend to hold back the second dose and ship it to states separately to ensure there’s no waste.
SOURCE: Associated Press, The Hill