US Vice President Mike Pence on Monday told governors that distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine could begin by the third week of this month, signaling that US regulators would swiftly approve an emergency authorization for the first vaccinations.
“We strongly believe the vaccine distribution process could begin the week of Dec. 14,” Pence told governors, according to a summary of the call provided by the office of Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “The American people deserve to know the cavalry is on the way.”
Pence told governors that they would have the final say on vaccine distribution as the “ultimate arbiters” in their states, the summary said.
Moderna Inc joined Pfizer Inc on Monday in requesting that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issue an emergency use authorization for its vaccine.
Both vaccines are more than 90 percent effective, according to preliminary clinical trial results, although their distribution challenges include requiring two injections.
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, US FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci also participated in the call.
An FDA advisory panel is scheduled to meet on Thursday next week to discuss the vaccines.
Azar told governors that distribution could begin within 24 hours of regulatory approval, while Pence said the administration believes that would be the week of Dec. 14th.
Vaccines would be largely administered by pharmacies, Azar said.
Some governors expressed surprise to learn that vaccines would be distributed to states at first based on a per-capita formula, counting only those aged 18 and older.
After the call, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said that the administration is undecided on who should be vaccinated first.
“The Trump administration believes you vaccinate those 65 and older,” Walz told reporters. “The CDC, Dr Fauci, and others say you vaccinate the healthcare workers to get the biggest bang for the buck. Those are discussions that are happening right now.”
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