Late on Friday, the FDA granted emergency authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The FDA emergency use authorization gives the federal government the ability to start distributing it to states. States will not be able to actually begin vaccinations until after a CDC committee recommends the vaccine, and the CDC accepts that recommendation.
The CDC panel is expected to meet soon to vote on whether to recommend the vaccine and for which groups.
The vaccine will not be available yet for children younger than 16 years old, because that has not been studied yet. Similarly, there are not yet any studies on the vaccine for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The British government has said that the vaccine should not be taken by people with a history of severe food or drug allergic reactions after two healthcare workers in Britain had severe allergic reactions to the vaccine. Those cases are being studied by doctors and researchers.
The CDC decision on the vaccination is expected this weekend.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on ABC News Friday that vaccinations could start as early as Monday or Tuesday.
The CDC vaccine panel recommended that the first doses be given to health workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
First responders are lobbying the CDC to also include them in the first people to be given the vaccine as they are increasingly exposed to the coronavirus while responding to medical emergencies.
The state of Alabama can make its own decisions about whom to prioritize and where to administer the vaccines.
The vaccine has to be stored at extremely cold temperatures limiting how it can be stored. It will take months for the vaccine to become available for the general public.
“The fact is vaccines are not going to have a public health impact for at least several months,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious diseases experts and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed is expected to ship 2.9 million doses of the vaccine to the states this weekend. The vaccine is intended to be administered in two doses three weeks apart.
The White House prioritized vaccine development.
“My Administration has initiated the single greatest mobilization in U.S. history — pioneering, developing, and manufacturing therapies and vaccines in record time,” Trump said.
Republican insider and Trump supporter former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. praised the president.
“President Trump announced Project Warp Speed in March 2020. He promised the American people Operation Warp Speed would produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines with the initial doses available by January 2021 and he did it,” Hooper said. “He was met as usual with much skepticism by the Press and never Tramper’s. As he always does, he ignored his critics and preceded forward, and he has delivered ahead of schedule. To put into perspective how miraculous this achievement is, our fastest vaccine ever developed before Operation Warp Speed was for the mumps, which took four years. President Trump knew that we did not have four years to wait. The Country and our economy would be in shambles. President Trump and his team designed Operation Warp Speed to join private pharmaceutical companies with government agencies and the military in showing the world once again what our great country could do when the world needed us.”
While the first health care workers in Alabama will get vaccinated as early as Tuesday, the arrival of the vaccine does little to deal with the immediate COVID-19 crisis. The Alabama Department of Public Health has reported 508 deaths from COVID-19 in the first 11 days of December.
This is already one of the worst months the state has experienced during the pandemic, and there are three weeks left in December. Too many Americans are ignoring calls for social distancing. Alabama has been under a “safer-at-home” order for months and a mask order since July but the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, keeps spreading.
At least 4,102 Alabamians have already died from COVID-19, the medical condition caused by the coronavirus. Nationally the COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 302,762. Global deaths are now over 1.6 million.
The Trump administration has rejected calls for a six week economic and travel shutdown to slow the spread of the virus.