The top official leading US efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine says the first Americans could receive the inoculation as early as mid-December.
Dr Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for the government’s Operation Warp Speed programme, said the plan was "to ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours" of being granted approval.
"I expect maybe on day two, after approval on 11 or 12 December, hopefully the first people will be immunised across the United States," he told CNN on Sunday morning.
Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech submitted an application to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccine candidate on Friday, and an FDA vaccine advisory committee is slated to meet on 10 December.
According to Dr Slaoui, if the vaccine is approved it could be rolled out the next day, launching the largest inoculation campaign in US history.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, says first Americans could receive a Covid-19 vaccine by December. "So I would expect, maybe, on day two after approval ... hopefully the first people will be immunized across the United States." #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/UvQpPi0pl9
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) November 22, 2020
A second pharmaceutical company, Moderna Inc, is expected to seek separate approval later in December for its Covid-19 vaccine.
Some 70 per cent of the US population of 330 million would need to be inoculated to achieve “herd” immunity from the virus, a goal the country could achieve by May, according to Dr Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for “Operation Warp Speed.”
Talking about who would receive the vaccine first, Dr Slaoui said once emergency-use approval is granted, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an advisory panel on immunisation practices will recommend how inoculation would be prioritised.
Dr Slaoui said they are likely to include doctors, nurses and “front-line” emergency medical personnel, as well as individuals considered to be at the highest risk of severe illness and death from the virus, such as the elderly.
Public health authorities in each state will be responsible for administering the vaccine roll-out, with the first doses distributed to the states proportionate to their populations, he added.