The United States hopes to launch coronavirus vaccinations in early December, a top health official said on Sunday, the latest positive news that emerges even as the case grows across the worst-affected nation and elsewhere around the world.
The United States hopes to launch coronavirus vaccinations in early December, a top health official said on Sunday, the latest positive news emerging even as the case grows across the worst-hit nation and elsewhere around the world.
The beginning of vaccinations could be a crucial change in the fight against a virus that has cost more than 1.4 million lives worldwide, including 255,000 in the United States alone, since it came from China at the end of last year.
Encouraging results from vaccine trials have boosted hopes of ending the pandemic, as nations reintroduce restrictions and lockdowns that slowed the spread earlier this year but turned lives and economies around the world upside down.
Two leading vaccine candidates – one by Pfizer and the German partner BioNTech and another by the American company Moderna – have proven to be 95 percent effective in studies, and Pfizer has already applied for approval for emergency use from US health authorities.
“Our plan is to be able to transport vaccines to the vaccination sites within 24 hours of approval,” US Food and Drug Administration Moncef Slaoui, head of the US government’s vaccine effect, told CNN, pointing to possible dates of December 11-12.
FDA vaccine advisors will meet on December 10 to discuss approval.
Slaoui estimated that 20 million people across the United States could be vaccinated in December, with 30 million per month thereafter.
But top US infectious official Anthony Fauci, who said “perhaps 20 million people will be vaccinated by mid-December,” warned that the situation could get worse before it gets better if people do not take precautions during the coming holiday season.
“We are in a very difficult situation at all levels,” he told CBS: “Face the Nation.”
Vaccines for everyone?
With cases exceeding 12 million in the United States, the highest in the world, many Americans were still on their way to airports to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday, despite health officials’ warnings to stay home.
Some US states introduced new restrictions, including California, where curfews 22.00 to 05.00 came into force on Saturday. New York City has closed schools again.
Texas, which earlier this month became the first state to register more than one million coronavirus cases, has called on the National Guard to support the city of El Paso.
Mayor Dee Margo announced on Twitter that the National Guard would provide backup to the county’s mortuary operations.
US drug authorities on Saturday already gave emergency approval for a Covid-19 antibody therapy – one used by US President Donald Trump – that can help treat the infected.
But the G20 countries pushed for “fair” global access to vaccines, with concerns that poorer countries will remain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said more needed to be done, as no major vaccine agreements had yet been reached for poorer countries.
“We will now talk to (the global vaccine alliance group) GAVI about when these negotiations will begin because I am a little worried that nothing has been done about it yet,” Merkel told reporters on Sunday in Berlin after a virtual G20 summit that Saudi Arabia hosted. .
There were signs that restrictions imposed in some countries helped to slow infections.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose country has been hit hard by the pandemic, said on Sunday that a strategy to fight infections worked.
Spain declared a state of emergency last month, allowing regional governments to impose virus restrictions at night.
The country has registered less than 400 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks, compared to almost 530 cases at the beginning of the month, he told a press conference after the G20 summit.
But the restrictions and masking rules have led to protests in some countries, especially the United States, where people – mainly Trump supporters – have been fighting for closures.
US media reported that hundreds of protesters gathered in Huntington Beach on Saturday night, in violation of California’s recent curfew.
Similar pushbacks have been seen elsewhere, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Sunday cracked down on anti-mask protesters who compared themselves to Nazi drugs, accusing them of belittling the Holocaust and “making a mockery” of what the resistance fighters showed.
The harsh words came after a young woman stood on stage during a protest against coronavirus restrictions in Hanover on Saturday and said she felt “just like Sophie Scholl”, the German student executed by the Nazis in 1943 for her role in the resistance.
Government measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus have sparked major protests in Germany, which have drawn in people from the left, conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists who claim that the curbs violate their civil rights.
Although necessary to stop the spread of the virus, restrictions have burdened economies around the world.
Another such warning came on Sunday from Britain’s finance minister Rishi Sunak, who said the country’s economy was under “enormous strain and stress”.
The UK has suffered more than any other country in Europe from the coronavirus and registered more than 54,000 deaths out of 1.4 million cases.
In November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government introduced a four-week lock-in to stop the spread of the disease. This is due to a partial repeal on December 2, which provides some relief for companies.