Health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available, an influential government advisory panel said Tuesday.
The panel voted 13-1 to recommend priority be given to those groups in the first days of any coming vaccination program, when doses are expected to be very limited. The two groups encompass about 24 million Americans out of a U.S. population of about 330 million.
Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. And each product requires two doses.
Meanwhile, the head of the agency responsible for authorizing COVID-19 vaccines said Tuesday after a meeting at the White House that federal officials would take the time needed to “get this right,” despite increasing pressure and growing frustration from President Donald Trump that approval is taking too long.
“No one at FDA is sitting on his or her hands. Everyone is working really hard to look at these applications and get this done,” Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, told ABC in an interview on Instagram Live. “But we absolutely have to do this the right way.”
Hahn's comments came not long after he was summoned to the White House by Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows as the agency weighs whether to allow emergency use of the first vaccines that could begin the long road to defeating the coronavirus in the U.S.
In other developments:
- The CDC is set to shorten the recommended length of quarantine after exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19. The new guidelines will allow people who have come in contact to someone infected with the virus to resume normal activity after 10 days, or 7 days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the onset of the pandemic.
- Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he's largely sticking with a partisan, scaled-back COVID-19 relief bill that has already failed twice this fall, even as Democratic leaders and a bipartisan group of moderates offered concessions in hopes of passing pandemic aid before Congress adjourns for the year.
- Nearly 37,000 Americans died of COVID-19 in November, the most in any month since the dark early days of the pandemic, engulfing families in grief, filling obituary pages of small-town newspapers and testing the capacity of morgues, funeral homes and hospitals.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is defending his decision to close down a number of emergency Federal Reserve loan programs at a time when coronavirus cases are surging.
- Field hospitals are opening up again as hospital capacity runs out. Rhode Island and New York are among the places to open such facilities in recent days.
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the ban on nonessential travel with the United States won't be lifted until COVID-19 is significantly more under control everywhere in the world.
- The European Union drug agency said Tuesday it may need four more weeks to approve its first coronavirus vaccine, even as authorities in the United States and Britain continue to aim for a green light before Christmas.
- The U.N. humanitarian office says needs for assistance have ballooned to unprecedented levels this year because of COVID-19, projecting that a staggering 235 million people will require help in 2021.
- The first NBA preseason camps of the coronavirus era are formally open, with teams limited for now to individual sessions with one coach and one player at one basket, all of this starting to happen as the pandemic continues raging and more and more Americans are testing positive.