HHS Secy. Alex Azar Gives Update On COVID-19 Vaccines

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, wearing a face mask, listens to the media after visiting a mask factory in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

The secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, delivered an update on the status of Moderna and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines. On Wednesday, he announced he expects the vaccines to be ready for vulnerable populations by the end of the year.

“Because of this work, by the end of December we expect to have about 40 million doses of these two vaccines available for distribution pending FDA authorization,” said Azar. “Enough to vaccinate about 20 million of our most vulnerable Americans and production, of course, would continue to ramp up after that.”

Although vulnerable populations may start receiving doses by December, officials said distribution to the general population likely won’t start until sometime next year.

“You know, the EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) may be approved in the middle of December or so,” stated Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed chief. “And by the time the vaccine starts to be laid out, you may, as an individual, only have access to the vaccine in a month and a half or two months.”

This comes amid some concerns strict storage requirements may impede access to the vaccines throughout the country. However, officials soothed those worries during a conference call earlier in the day. They said local jurisdictions should be ready to distribute the vaccines within hours of them being granted regulatory approval.

Pfizer is likely to be granted emergency use authorization from the FDA about a week before Moderna with full approval expected to take about three-months. Azar said, in the meantime, people should be wearing masks and practicing social distancing as much as possible.

“With the vaccine news that we have, with the therapeutic approval that we have, there is light at the end of the tunnel,” stated the HHS secretary. “But we need people to get there and the way people are going to get there is by practicing good individual behaviors of washing your hands, watching your distance, wearing your face coverings when you can’t watch your distance.”

In recent tests, both drug makers reported their vaccines were about 95 percent effective.



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