US Vaccination Effort Ramps Up with Another Shot on Deck for Authorization


Hundreds more hospitals around the country began dispensing COVID-19 shots to their workers in a rapid expansion of the U.S. vaccination campaign on Tuesday, with a second vaccine on the cusp of government authorization.

A day after the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s shots, the Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

A panel of outside experts is expected to vote to recommend the vaccine on Thursday, with the FDA’s green light coming soon thereafter.

The Moderna vaccine uses the same technology as Pfizer-BioNTech’s and showed similarly strong protection against COVID-19 but is easier to handle because it does not need to be kept at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.

Packed in dry ice, shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began arriving Tuesday at more than 400 hospitals and other distribution sites.

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The first 3 million shots are being limited to health workers and nursing home patients.

Maritza Beniquez, a 56-year-old emergency room nurse at Newark’s University Hospital, became the first person in New Jersey to receive the vaccine on Tuesday.

In Manchester, New Hampshire, intensive care unit nurse Heidi Kukla said she volunteered to get the shot first to help dispel fears about the vaccine’s long-term effects and the speed with which it was developed.

Just half of Americans say they want to get vaccinated, while about a quarter don’t and the rest are unsure, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research.

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The federal government is planning hundreds more shipments through the weekend.

Shots for nursing home residents won’t start in most states until next week, when some 1,100 facilities are set to begin vaccinations.

Government officials project that 20 million Americans will be able to get shots by the end of December, and 30 million more in January.

The U.S. government has purchased 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 200 million doses of Moderna’s.

If everything goes smoothly, that would be enough to vaccinate 150 million Americans by mid-2021. Both vaccines require a second dose a few weeks after an initial shot.

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Elsewhere around the world, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is being given in Britain and Canada. And European Union regulators moved up a meeting to assess the vaccine to Dec. 21, more than a week earlier than planned, under pressure from Germany and other countries on the continent.

In scrutinizing early results of a 30,000-person study, the FDA found that Moderna’s vaccine worked just about as well as Pfizer-BioNTech’s.

The Moderna vaccine was more than 94 percent effective overall at preventing COVID-19, and 86 percent effective in people 65 and older.

The FDA uncovered no major safety problems. Side effects can include fever, fatigue and aches.

Even such a large study can’t detect very rare problems. Britain last week reported some possible reactions among people with a history of severe allergies who received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

The FDA found no serious allergic reactions in the Moderna study. About 1.5 percent of vaccine recipients reported possible small, “hypersensitivity” reactions.

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