An FDA notice Panel clears first vaccine, US takes dark steps, and cases rise worldwide. Here’s what you need to know:
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FDA advisory board clears first U.S. vaccine, and it may soon be on its way
On Thursday evening, an independent advisory group reporting to the FDA administered the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. the green light. hours later, the FDA has said it will work to quickly issue an emergency shooting authorization. Once the EUA is issued, ultra-cold trucks filled with vaccines will leave the Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo and head to distribution sites in the United States. Vaccines can begin distribution as soon as the CDC officially recommends it, and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has emergency meetings on the books for today and next Monday.
Once there, how will the vaccine be in the arms of Americans in need? Thursday, FedEx and UPS executives told a Senate transportation subcommittee it would track location and priority flights for vaccine shipments, even during the busiest shipping season on record. Meanwhile, Walmart announced that it was preparing more than 5,000 of its pharmacies to administer the vaccine. Each of us can do our part to prepare too, by encourage skeptical loved ones to board with the reception of a shot.
The pandemic reaches dark milestones in the United States
This week, the coronavirus numbers in the United States continued to darken. As cases and hospitalization rates rose further on Thursday, the country hit a sinister milestone: The total number of Americans who have died from Covid-19 has exceeded the number of U.S. servicemen killed in action in World War II. The day before, the United States had set a new record for the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in one day at 3,054, a total that exceeds the death toll from September 11 or Pearl Harbor. CDC Director Robert Redfield warned that deaths will likely exceed those numbers over the next 60 to 90 days.
In response, many states are implementing new restrictions. Virginia imposed a new curfew and expands its mask tenure, while Maryland and New York City eliminated meals inside. New Mexico has temporarily suspended all non-essential surgeries to alleviate pressure on state hospitals. There is also a plan in place to allow doctors to ration supplies and determine who to care for based on their chances of survival, if any. Part of the challenge is that policymakers and public health experts know that the sum of all these different interventions reduces the spread, but it is not clear which are the most effective on their own. Without this information, it is essential that everyone follows all guidelines we have the best we can.
Other countries double their interventions as cases increase globally
Cases outside the United States are also on the rise, even in countries where infection rates were once enviably low. Cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Japan, prompting experts to urge people not to travel for the New Year, a time when it is customary for many to return to their hometowns. South Korea, whose number was once as low as two new cases a day, is struggle to contain a new swell too. The two countries also deployed military personnel to help healthcare workers in the throes of managing the pandemic.