With Pfizer Inc’s and BioNTech SE’s BNTX.O COVID-19 vaccine distribution imminent after U.S. authorization on Friday, top regulators sought to reassure Americans that the record fast pace was warranted and had not sacrificed safety.
“We worked quickly based on the urgency of this pandemic, not because of any other external pressure,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said during a press conference.
The United States on Friday evening granted an emergency use authorization for the vaccine for people aged 16 and older. It was shown to be 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 in a late-stage trial.
It is the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized in the United States, where the pandemic has killed more than 295,000 people. Britain, Canada and three other countries have already authorized the shot from U.S.-based Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.
The Trump administration has poured billions of dollars into developing vaccines and will manage the distribution and allocation to states. The first 2.9 million doses are expected to roll out of Pfizer plants in the coming days, with more shipments each week.
Healthcare workers and elderly people in long-term care facilities are expected to be the main recipients of the first wave of shots in December, with more U.S. residents becoming eligible in January. Authorities have said general availability of the vaccine is expected by April.