With hospitals under siege, U.S. moves closer to COVID-19 vaccine
By Daniel Trotta (Reuters) - U.S. regulators moved a step closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday as Britain started inoculating people, offering hope of slowing a pandemic that killed 15,000 Americans in the last week alone. Pfizer Inc cleared another hurdle on Tuesday when the U.S.
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By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) - U.S. regulators moved a step closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday as Britain started inoculating people, offering hope of slowing a pandemic that killed 15,000 Americans in the last week alone.
Pfizer Inc cleared another hurdle on Tuesday when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released documents that raised no new red flags over the safety or efficacy of the vaccine it developed with Germany's BioNTech SE.
The documents were prepared ahead of a meeting of a panel of outside advisers on Thursday to discuss whether to recommend FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer vaccine, which could eventually provide relief to hospitals buckling under a record 101,498 COVID-19 patients as of Monday, up 16% in a week. Healthcare workers are expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine it if receives an EUA.
Health officials predict a swift green light enabling the United States to join Britain, which became the first Western nation to begin mass inoculations with the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.
The FDA advisory panel is expected to review Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine next week, potentially giving the public two vaccines that could be distributed in coming weeks.
While China and Russia have moved forward with their own vaccines, Briton Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person to receive the Pfizer vaccine outside of clinical trials when she received a shot at her local hospital in Coventry in central England.
The United States badly needs a new tool to fight a virus spinning out of control. Another 203,474 infections were reported on Monday and 1,582 people died.
LOOMING EVICTION EPIDEMIC
Congress has long delayed a fresh infusion of coronavirus aid to families and businesses reeling from a pandemic that has thrown millions out of work. Lawmakers will vote on a stopgap measure this week to give them more time to reach a deal that would include the coronavirus relief.
"Overall, we just need to give people money so they can keep their budgets whole," said Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. That way the recovery, when it comes, will be easier, she said.
The pandemic-induced economic mayhem and Washington foot-dragging is taking a toll on Americans, threatening up to 40 million people with eviction over the coming months, according to research from the Aspen Institute.
Clarence Hamer expects to lose his Brooklyn brownstone since he stopped paying his mortgage in September, after exhausting his life savings.
"All I have is my home, and it seems apparent that I'm going to lose it," he said.
Total U.S. confirmed coronavirus cases approached 15 million on Tuesday, leading top health officials to sound the alarm of further spread when people gather for the year-end holidays.
President Donald Trump, who will be succeeded by President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, has downplayed public health measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing to halt the virus spread, focusing instead on vaccine development.
Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday intended to ensure that priority access for COVID-19 vaccines procured by the U.S. government is given to the American people before assisting other nations.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a leader of the administration's Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program, said on Tuesday he was confident there will be enough vaccines to immunize 70% to 80% of the U.S. population by mid-May.
Slaoui told Fox News in an interview he was more worried about Americans who reject medical science and fear vaccines as unsafe or a conspiracy to harm the public.
"The highest concern I have is the level of hesitancy within the population as to accepting whether they will be immunized or not," Slaoui said, pleading with people to keep an open mind. "Please don't come to a conclusion before you have been exposed to the data."
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Doina Chiacu, Anurag Maan, Manas Mishra, Mike Erman, Rebecca Spalding, Jonnelle Marte, Michelle Conlin, and Maria Caspani; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)
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