In early December, the United States hopes to launch coronavirus vaccinations, a top government health official said Sunday, the latest optimistic news to emerge even as cases increase across the worst-hit nation and around the globe elsewhere.
In the war against a virus that has taken more than 1.4 million lives worldwide, including 255,000 just in the US after emerging from China late last year the beginning of vaccinations may be a critical change.
As rising cases push nations to reimpose restrictions and lockdowns that slowed the spread earlier this year but turned lives and economies upside down across the globe, a slew of promising outcomes from vaccinations have strengthened expectations for an end to the pandemic.
Two leading vaccine candidates, one from Pfizer and the German partner BioNTech and another from the US company Moderna, have been shown to be 95 percent successful and Pfizer has already applied to the US health authorities for emergency use approval.
Our plan is to be able to distribute vaccines to immunisation sites within 24 hours of approval,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said to CNN, “Moncef Slaoui, head of the U.S. government vaccination initiative, referring to potential dates from 11-12 December.
Vaccine advisors from the FDA will reportedly meet on December 10 to discuss vaccine approval.
In December, Slaoui predicted that 20 million people will be vaccinated across the U.S., with 30 million per month after that.
On Saturday, US drug regulators already gave emergency approval to a Covid-19 antibody treatment, one used by US President Donald Trump, and G20 nations pressed for “equitable” global access to vaccinations with concerns that developing countries would be left behind.
With cases surpassing 12 million in the United States, the highest in the world, amid health officials’ warnings to stay home, many Americans were nonetheless going to airports to fly for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday.
Some US states have introduced new limits, including California, where a curfew takes place from 10 pm to 5 am. New York City once again closed its schools.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on the opposite side of the Atlantic, expects to declare that restrictions across England will end on December 2 as scheduled, his office said.
But a return to a three-tiered collection of regional curbs would accompany the lockout.
Britain has suffered from the coronavirus more than any other country in Europe, with more than 54,000 deaths from 1.4 million cases.
Iran declared in the Middle East that it had shut down non-essential companies for up to two weeks in over half its cities and towns and imposed limits on travel.
– Vaccine equality –
On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech demanded their vaccine candidate for emergency approval, being the first to do so in the United States or Europe, with final trials showing that it was 95 percent successful.
But amid these advances, there have been fears that countries across the world may have inadequate access to vaccines, and those concerns have been reinforced by the G20 nations meeting for a virtual summit on Saturday.
“While we are optimistic about the progress made in developing Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tools, we must work to create conditions for all people to have affordable and equitable access to these tools,” said Saudi King Salman, the host of the summit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that more had to be done, saying that no big vaccination deals for developing nations had been achieved yet.
“We will now talk to GAVI (Global Vaccine Alliance Group) about when these negotiations will start because I’m somewhat worried that nothing has been done about that yet,” Merkel told reporters following the virtual G20 meeting in Berlin on Sunday.
– Trump’s therapy –
The approval of antibody therapy in the United States on Saturday provides some hope for those infected, although there will be a very limited number of doses available in the coming weeks.
To treat Trump when he was ill with the virus, the same therapy was used.
The green light for drugmaker Regeneron has been shown to decrease Covid-19-related hospitalizations or emergency department visits in patients with underlying conditions after REGEN-COV2, a mixture of two lab-made antibodies, was shown.
Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said The authorization of these monoclonal antibody therapies can help outpatients avoid hospitalisation and reduce the burden on our health care system.”
The antibody treatment of Regeneron is the second synthetic antibody treatment to be approved by the FDA for emergency use (EUA) after a similar therapy developed by Eli Lilly was granted status on 9 November.
The company said it plans to have doses available by the end of November for 80,000 patients and by the end of January 2021 for nearly 300,000 patients in total.
These will be available to US patients under the terms of a US government programme at no out-of-pocket expense.
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