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Pennsylvania health secretary: We could have a COVID-19 vaccine by next month

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Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says a COVID-19 vaccine could be available within the next month, although when a vaccine does become available, it won't be "an immediate cure or end" to the pandemic.

"If the federal approval process remains on track — we still have to see that — we could have a vaccine within the next month," Levine said at a press conference Thursday afternoon, CBS Pittsburgh reports.

"However, we do not know how quickly the vaccine supply will meet the demand. It is important to remember again that when the vaccine becomes available, it will not be a cure — certainly not an immediate cure or end — to the coronavirus pandemic."

Pfizer said Wednesday that a final assessment of trial data on the vaccine it developed in conjunction with German company BioNTech showed it was 95% effective, and that it would apply for emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "within days."

Moderna said its vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company's ongoing study — also putting it on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the United States. 

"We have heard very promising news about the safety and effectiveness trials for both the Pfizer and the Moderna," Levine said. "We anticipate — again this is all through the federal government — that the Pfizer vaccine will come out sometime in December. We anticipate the Moderna vaccine perhaps in late December or the beginning of January, and then there will be a phased rollout of the vaccine." 

Levine said that after Pfizer and Moderna finish phase-three trials with their vaccines, the FDA has to complete a review to grant emergency use authorization before the CDC reviews and provides recommendations for the vaccine. Then the health department will work to distribute it from manufactures to providers.    

Levine said there are "significant logistical challenges" to distribute and administer the vaccines to the public.

She's anticipating at least two vaccines, pointing to Moderna and Pfizer, and said there are four more in the pipeline. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, she said, and the Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at -80 degrees Celsius.

"Our plan takes all of that into consideration, and we stand ready to distribute and administer the vaccines."

She also said, "We are in for a very challenging time. ... It could take a significant amount of time to immunize everyone in Pennsylvania." 

"We have been working very closely with Operation Warp Speed as well as the CDC and other federal officials and other states, but we do need more funding," she said.

The CDC and federal government authorized $340 million to the states, which she said is in contrast to about $8 billion to $12 billion to develop the vaccine. She said $340 million to the state isn't enough, and she's calling for more funding.

Dozens of COVID-19 vaccines are currently in clinical trials. The most recent data from human trials shows a vaccine being developed by Oxford University and British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is safe, and most importantly, it works well in the most vulnerable set of patients, CBS News' Charlie D'Agata reported Thursday

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