US officials outline vaccine distribution plans as emergency authorization nears

Coronavirus Vaccine

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — U.S. health and defense officials are laying out COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans Wednesday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will give an update with several advisers to “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump administration’s effort to produce and distribute safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Earlier in the day, senior defense officials outlined the Defense Department’s phased strategy for administering and distributing vaccines.

Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average. Coronavirus cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, while a vaccine appears close to getting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A panel of outside experts are meeting Thursday to discuss whether Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine should be authorized for emergency use.

Pfizer’s vaccine, developed with its German partner BioNTech, is expected to be endorsed by FDA advisers as early as this week, with delivery of 100 million doses — enough for 50 million Americans — anticipated in coming months.

Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program, told Fox News on Tuesday that the first U.S. injections could take place on Sunday or Monday.

Britain became the first Western nation to begin mass inoculations with the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.

Beyond Pfizer’s shots, the U.S. is also still vetting a similar vaccine made by Moderna Inc, while new findings were released on Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s candidate this week.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump celebrated the anticipated approval of the first coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. at a White House event. He signed an executive order directing health officials to ensure that Americans have priority to the vaccine.

A senior administration official said the order would restrict the government from delivering doses to other nations until there is excess supply to meet domestic demand, but it was not immediately clear what the practical impact would be.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will oversee the bulk of the nation’s vaccination program when he takes office Jan. 20, pledged Tuesday to ensure 100 million vaccine shots were administered in his first 100 days.

The announcement came as Biden introduced his choices to lead his administration’s pandemic response efforts.

He also called for all Americans to voluntarily mask up during those 100 days, and promised to try to reopen a majority of the nation’s schools.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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