Pence tells governors coronavirus vaccine distribution could begin in 2 weeks
Some doses of the COVID-19 vaccine could begin to be distributed as early as mid-December, Vice President Mike Pence told the nation's governors during a conference call with the White House Coronavirus Task Force Monday.
"We strongly believe the vaccine distribution process could begin as soon as the week of December 14," Pence said, according to audio of the call obtained by CBS News. "With this morning's news that Moderna is joining Pfizer in submitting an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), we continue to be on pace."
The main focus of the call, which was led by the vice president, was to lay out the timeline of vaccine approval and distribution.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn didn't commit to the December 14 date, but he did say the agency would make a decision regarding Pfizer's EUA after an outside panel of experts meets to review Pfizer's application on December 10.
Hahn described the FDA's process in evaluating the vaccines for emergency use. "We do all the number crunching ourselves," he said. "We look line by line by line on all the data, on all the patients and manufacturing. We do statistical analyses and we come to our own conclusions to support a decision of either thumbs-up or thumbs-down."
The meeting agenda obtained by CBS News says the first vaccine deliveries, by Pfizer, are planned to take place on December 15, and the first Moderna vaccines are estimated to be delivered on December 22.
The week of December 13 - 19, Pfizer plans to be ready to deliver 6.4 million doses, enough to vaccinate about 3 million people, since they will require two shots, and some undetermined number are reserve or backup vaccine doses. The following week, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to produce enough to vaccinate another 10 million people. By the end of December, the two companies will have manufactured enough for a total of approximately 30 million people for the month.
But Pence told governors "we have a ways to go" to reassure the public about the vaccine. Noting they "have the bully pulpit" in their states, he urged them "to educate people of your state in a proactive way in the coming weeks to develop public confidence for the COVID-19 vaccine."
The nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, vouched for the vaccines and said that the approval process, though accelerated, "does not at all compromise safety, nor does it compromise scientific integrity."
Fauci also praised the Moderna vaccine as "highly efficacious in preventing severe outcomes."
"Any misrepresentation that the vaccines had government interference or company interference is patently untrue," he said.
"The data that came out today from Moderna indicated 30 severe outcomes, all of which occurred in the placebo, none of which occurred in the vaccines," Fauci said. "That's really very good news."
Maine Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, voiced her disappointment in the number of doses her state would receive in the initial federal allocation of vaccine doses. It's "about a third of what we anticipated" — enough to immunize about 12,500 people.
"It's a real concern" because "our healthcare staff here, as everywhere, is really strapped, the healthcare system is kind of breaking down because of the lack of staffing," Mills said on the call.
Dr. Deborah Birx wrapped up the call with an update on the spread of the disease. Across the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountain states and in the Heartland, except for Oklahoma, "we are seeing finally, after a very long time, a decrease in the number of hospitalizations," she said. Birx instructed the governors who are seeing hospitalizations decline to be "very proactive in finding any asymptomatic spread after Thanksgiving.
She explained that hospitalization rates remain high because "they are rising significantly across all states on the West Coast from Washington, Oregon and California, and then again across the Sun Belt, but also between Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, up through the mid-Atlantic and into the Northeast."
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