US planning Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine distribution as early as December
The United States could begin inoculating its citizens with Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine as early as December, provided the drugmaker submits data from its trial to health regulators, Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Tuesday. On Monday, the US-based company announced that its vaccine was found to be 90% effective in large-scale late-stage trials. German biotech firm BioNTech is also developing the vaccine.
If things go well, Pfizer could have the safety data by next week, which would be sent to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Once FDA approves, the country will receive nearly 20 million doses of the vaccine per month. As per Azar, the United States Department of Health and Human Services would begin procuring supplies by end of November.
While speaking to CNBC, Azar said the vaccine's efficiency will decide the next steps. He revealed the elderly in nursing homes, healthcare workers, and first responders, will be the first ones to be inoculated. He hoped this process would wrap up by January-end. Azar is confident other vaccines, like the one being developed by Moderna Inc., will also become available soon.
Separately, the worst-hit nation's infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci also expressed confidence in Pfizer, going as far as saying that he would also take the vaccine once the FDA approves it. "I'm going to look at the data, but I trust Pfizer. I trust the FDA. These are colleagues of mine for decades, the career scientists," Dr. Fauci told MSNBC.
"If they look at this data, and they say this data is solid, let's go ahead and approve it, I promise you, I will take the vaccine, and I will recommend that my family take the vaccine," Dr. Fauci added.
The US drugmaker is also in talks with the Indian government to sell its vaccine, a spokesperson said. "We remain committed to advance our dialogue with the Government of India to make this vaccine available for use in the country," a Pfizer India spokesperson revealed, adding that the company could produce nearly 50 million doses in 2020, and about 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
It is worth highlighting that Pfizer has not signed any pact with India or World Health Organization, which is leading the vaccine initiative called Covax. What makes the distribution of Pfizer's vaccine more cumbersome is the fact that it has to be stored at a temperature of -75°C ±15°C. India doesn't have the required infrastructure, hence, didn't show enthusiasm in signing a deal.