A coronavirus vaccine is being rushed to the United States as preparations to distribute it across the country enter their final stages.
US health authorities will hold an emergency meeting next week to recommend the vaccine, which is still awaiting full approval, be given first to healthcare professionals and people in long-term care facilities.
The meeting, announced on Friday by a US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee on immunisations, suggests that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be close to authorising distribution of the long-awaited medication, at least to those considered most vulnerable.
United Airlines has begun moving shipments of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc, on charter flights to ensure it can be quickly distributed once it is approved, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices will vote on Tuesday (local time) to recommend that the FDA allow healthcare professionals and long-term care facilities to be the first two groups to get initial vaccine supplies, a CDC spokeswoman said.
A green light for any vaccine would come as welcome news to Americans, who political leaders have clamped under increasingly aggressive measures to curtail the spread of the virus.
Los Angeles County health officials on Friday banned all public and private gatherings for at least three weeks and urged residents to stay home as much as possible.
Americans began the holiday season on Friday under pressure to stay home, avoid gatherings and curtail Christmas shopping.
One day after the nation marked a low-key Thanksgiving, malls and retailers imposing strict Covid-19 rules saw fewer shoppers for the traditional Black Friday start of holiday shopping.
“Remember, skip the crowds and shop from home this Black Friday,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a first-term Democrat, wrote on Twitter.
Nearly six million Americans flew from Friday to Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration says, a number that is, however, less than half that of the same period last year.
Roughly 90,000 patients were being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals on Friday, a number that has doubled in the last month to the highest since the pandemic began.
“This is the reality we face when COVID-19 is allowed to spread unchecked – ICUs at capacity, not enough health care workers available,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a tweet.
The country has had more than 13 million coronavirus cases and more than 264,000 deaths.
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