US vaccinations ramp up as 2nd COVID-19 shot nears
U.S. death toll surpassed a staggering 300,000 on Dec. 14 according to Johns Hopkins University
Hundreds more hospitals around the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots to their workers in a rapid expansion of the U.S. vaccination drive on Dec. 15, while a second vaccine moved to the cusp of government authorization.
A day after the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus shots, the Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. A panel of outside experts is expected to vote to recommend the formula on Dec. 10, with the FDA’s green light coming soon thereafter.
The Moderna vaccine uses the same technology as Pfizer-BioNTech’s and showed similarly strong protection against COVID-19 but is easier to handle because it does not need to be kept in the deep freeze at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius).
Another weapon against the outbreak can’t come soon enough: The U.S. death toll surpassed a staggering 300,000 on Dec. 14, according to Johns Hopkins University, with about 2,400 people dying per day on average and new cases running at an average of over 210,000 per day.
The devastating toll is only expected to grow in coming weeks, fueled by holiday travel, family gatherings and lax adherence to basic public health measures.
The first 3 million shots are being strictly rationed to front-line health workers and nursing home patients, with hundreds of millions more shots needed over the coming months to protect most Americans.
The rollout provided a measure of encouragement to exhausted doctors, nurses and hospital staffers around the country.
The federal government is planning hundreds more shipments through the weekend.
“We’re starting our drumbeat of continuous execution of vaccine as it is available,” said Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for the government’s Operation Warp Speed. “We package and we deliver. It is a constant flow of available vaccine.”
Shots for nursing home residents won’t start in most states until next week, when some 1,100 facilities are set to begin vaccinations. Perna and other officials reiterated their projection that 20 million Americans will be able to get their first shots by the end of December, and 30 million more in January.
That projection assumes swift authorization of the Moderna vaccine, which also requires two shots for full protection. The U.S. government has purchased 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and orders for 200 million doses of the Moderna serum. Assuming no manufacturing or distribution delays, that would be enough to vaccinate 150 million Americans by mid-2021.