The U.S. is getting closer to widespread distribution of vaccines for COVID-19, following the FDA’s emergency use authorization on Friday of the one developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
The FDA’s decision clears the way for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to start being distributed across the country for people 16 years and older, and makes the U.S. the sixth country in the world to clear the vaccine, reports the New York Times. The UK began rolling out the same vaccine to its population this week.
The process has started for about three million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be shipped to healthcare and nursing home facilities in the U.S., according the Times.
In its announcement of the emergency use authorization, the FDA issued a statement that seemed aimed at allaying concerns about the safety of the rapidly developed vaccine that Pfizer says is about 95 percent effective in preventing the coronavirus.
“The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life-threatening disease in an expedited timeframe after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn.
“Today’s action follows an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts and a thorough evaluation by the agency’s career scientists to ensure this vaccine met FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization,” he added.
But the emergency use authorization also came after President Trump spent Friday haranguing the FDA commissioner to fast-track the vaccine’s approval.
“Get the dam (sic) vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, while describing the FDA as a “big, old, slow turtle.”
Hahn also reportedly received a call on Friday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who warned the commissioner he could be fired if the FDA did not issue emergency use authorization by the end of the day.
Hahn said that was an “untrue representation” of his call with Meadows.
Pfizer has a contract with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses of the vaccine to the public by next March. Another vaccine, developed by Moderna, is currently under review by the FDA for emergency use authorization.