WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16, 2020 (Healthday News) – The Trump administration is working to free up raw materials that Pfizer requires to make tens of millions more doses of its coronavirus vaccine in the first half of 2021.
Should an agreement be struck with the company, it could help ease a future shortage that will come because the White House did not pre-order more doses of the Pfizer vaccine months ago, The New York Times said. Last summer, the company agreed to supply the United States with 100 million doses by the end of March, enough to inoculate 50 million people.
The Pfizer vaccine is one of only two so far that have been shown in late-stage trials to work; a similar vaccine made by Moderna is up for emergency approval later this week. The United States has locked in only enough doses of the two vaccines to cover 150 million people by the end of June, or less than half the nation, the Times reported.
The administration recently asked Pfizer to sell it enough doses to cover an additional 50 million Americans, but Pfizer said it had already found customers around the world for all the doses it can produce until around the middle of next year, the Times said.
But Pfizer then indicated that it would be able to manufacture more doses if the administration ordered the company's suppliers to prioritize its purchase requests.
After the company signed a contract last July pledging to sell the United States 100 million doses by the end of March, Pfizer officials suggested at least twice that the Trump administration reserve more doses, but were turned down, people familiar with the situation told the Times.
Moderna, a small Massachusetts-based firm, agreed last summer to provide the United States with 100 million doses by the end of March. It has now pledged to sell another 100 million doses by the end of June, the Times reported.
Vaccine campaign begins as poll shows 70% will get it
America launched a massive vaccination campaign to curb the spread of COVID-19 this week.
On Tuesday morning, scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a data review that almost guarantees a second vaccine will soon join the Pfizer vaccine as it makes its way to sites in all 50 states: Moderna's two-shot regimen, which is based on the same technology as the Pfizer vaccine, was found to be 94 percent effective in a clinical trial and carried no serious safety concerns. The glowing assessment positions the Moderna vaccine for approval from an FDA advisory panel that is meeting on Thursday, the Washington Post reported.
As the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine made their way to the arms of health care workers around the United States this week, a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 71% of Americans say they will "definitely or probably" get a COVID-19 vaccine.
That's up from 63% in September, and it's a sign that a growing number of Americans are starting to trust the science behind the vaccines as they become more comfortable with the speed in which the vaccines are being developed.
Still, just over a quarter of Americans are hesitant to get a vaccine, saying they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were free and deemed safe by scientists. The greatest reluctance was seen among Black Americans, people living in rural areas and Republicans.
And not everyone wants a shot right away: A third of those surveyed said they want to get a vaccine "as soon as possible," while 39% of those surveyed said they would "wait and see" how initial vaccination efforts go before getting a vaccine themselves. Kaiser polled 1,676 adults for the survey.
On Monday morning, the first vaccination outside a clinical trial in the United States took place in Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, the Times reported. The shot, made by Pfizer, was given to Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at the center.
Lindsay, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic, said that she hoped her public vaccination would instill confidence that the shots were safe.
"I have seen the alternative, and do not want it for you," she said. "I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history."
Most of the first round of injections are to be given to high-risk health care workers, the Times reported. Because the vaccines can cause side effects including fevers and aches, hospitals have said they will stagger vaccinations among their workers.
Residents of nursing homes, who have suffered a disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths, will begin to get shots next week, the Times reported. A vast majority of Americans will not be eligible for vaccinations until the spring or later.
Alex Azar, who heads the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the plan is to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of December, up to 50 million by the end of January and 100 million by the end of February, the Post reported.
A global scourge
By Wednesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 16.7 million while the death toll neared 304,000, according to a Times tally. By Wednesday, the top five states for coronavirus infections were California with over 1.6 million, Texas with more than 1.5 million cases, Florida with over 1.1 million cases; Illinois with over 865,000 cases and New York with nearly 800,000 cases.
Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.
In India, the coronavirus case count passed 9.9 million on Wednesday, a Johns Hopkins University tally showed. More than 144,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to the Hopkins tally, but when measured as a proportion of the population, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India's younger and leaner population. Still, the country's public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, the Times said. Only the United States has more coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, Brazil had over 6.9 million cases and nearly 183,000 deaths as of Wednesday, the Hopkins tally showed.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 73.6 million on Wednesday, with over 1.6 million deaths recorded, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
SOURCES: Washington Post; The New York Times