The United States is set to distribute and administer its first vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
On Friday morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would grant emergency use authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of days and that millions of doses would soon be shipped to administration centers across the country.
The secretary indicated that the first vaccines could be administered as early as Monday.
"Just a little bit ago, the FDA informed Pfizer that they do intend to proceed towards an authorization for their vaccine," he continued. "So in the next couple of days, probably as we work to negotiate with Pfizer the information doctors need to prescribe it appropriately, we should be seeing the authorization of this first vaccine.
"We could be seeing people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of next week," he said.
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The vaccine was approved for emergency use by officials in the United Kingdom last week and was immediately administered to British citizens. In the U.S., however, the vaccine has still been undergoing review by an FDA advisory board.
On Thursday, the panel, made up of independent scientific experts and infectious disease doctors and statisticians, green-lighted the vaccine for use in a 17-4 vote, with one member abstaining. The move cleared the way for the agency to approve the vaccine shortly.
Millions of vaccinations are readied to be shipped in short order once the formal approval is granted.
Last month, Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said that his company was prepared "to ship to most of the places [in the U.S.] overnight" — an impressive operation considering the vaccine requires storage in vials which can maintain a temperature between -94 and -112 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a joint statement, the companies said they expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and more than 1 billion doses by the end of next year.