US panel endorses widespread use of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine – world news

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A U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday, putting the country just one step absent from launching an epic vaccination crusade against the outbreak that has killed near to 300,000 Americans.

Shots could begin inside days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee’s recommendation.

“It is a light at the end of the long tunnel of this pandemic,” said Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a 17-4 vote with one abstention, the government advisers concluded that the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech appears protected and effective for emergency use in adults and teenagers 16 and over.

That endorsement came despite questions approximately allergic reactions in two people who received the vaccine earlier this week when Britain became the first country to start dispensing the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

While there are a variety of remaining unknowns approximately the vaccine, in an emergency, “the question is if you realize enough” to press ahead, said panel member Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He concluded that the potential benefits outweigh the risks.

The decision came as Covid-19 cases surge to ever-higher levels across the U.S., with deaths setting an all-time, one-day record of more than 3,100 on Wednesday.

Pfizer has said it’s going to have approximately 25 million doses of the two-shot vaccine for the U.S. by the end of December. But the initial supplies will be reserved primarily for health care workers and nursing home residents, with other vulnerable groups next in line until ramped-up production enables shots to turn into widely to be had on demand — something that will probably not happen until the spring.

Next week, the FDA will review a second vaccine, from Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, that appears approximately as protective as Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot. A third candidate, from Johnson & Johnson, which would require just one dose, is working its way through the pipeline. At the back of that may be a candidate from AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

U.S. health experts are hoping a combination of vaccines will in the long run enable the U.S. to overcome the outbreak.

But experts estimate no less than 70% of the U.S. population must be vaccinated to succeed in herd immunity, the point at which the virus will also be held in check. That means it could be several months before things start get back to normal and Americans can put absent their masks.

All eyes now turn to the FDA staff scientists who will make the ultimate decision of if to press ahead with large-scale immunizations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. FDA’s vaccine director Dr. Peter Marks said ahead of the expert assembly that a decision would come inside “days to a week.”

The independent review by non-government experts in vaccine development, infectious diseases and medical statistics was once thought to be critical to boosting Americans’ confidence in the safety of the shot, which was once developed at breakneck speed less than a year after the virus was once identified.

Regulators not only in Britain but in Canada have already approved the vaccine to be used in their countries, and President Donald Trump and White House officials have complained for weeks approximately the pace of FDA’s careful review.

“Americans want us to do a scientific review, but I think they also want us to ensure we’re not wasting time on paperwork versus going forward with the decision,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said before the assembly.

A positive vote for the vaccine was once practically assured after FDA scientists issued a glowing review of the vaccine earlier in the week. Agency staffers said data from Pfizer’s ongoing study of 44,000 people showed strong protection across different age groups, races and health conditions with no major, unforeseen safety problems.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shot remains experimental because that final-stage study isn’t total. Consequently, the expert panel wrestled with a list of questions that have yet to be answered.

As an example, while the vaccine is more than 90% effective in blocking the symptoms of Covid-19, the FDA’s advisers stressed it isn’t yet lucid if it can stop the silent, symptomless spread that accounts for up to half of all cases.

“Although the individual efficacy of this vaccine is very, very, very high, you truly as of at the moment would not have any evidence” that it’s going to lower transmission, said Dr. Patrick Moore of the University of Pittsburgh. He urged Pfizer to take extra steps to reply to that question.

Several of the dissenting panel members opposed to authorizing the shot for 16- and 17-year-olds, provided their small numbers in the study and the low risk they face from Covid-19.

Members worried, too, that Pfizer will lose its possibility to reply to critical questions once it begins offering the real vaccine to study participants who had been getting dummy shots prior to now.

The company proposed gradually moving those patients to the vaccine group, with precedence based on age, health conditions and other factors. Under that plan, 70-year-old participants would cross over before healthy 30-year-olds.

Pfizer will have to still show if the vaccine works in children younger than 16 and in pregnant women.

On the safety front, as widespread vaccinations begin, the first recipients will be closely tracked by government health authorities since studies in tens of thousands of people can’t detect infrequent risks that strike 1 in a million. Hanging over the assembly were the British allergic reactions and a warning from authorities there that people with a history of serious reactions shouldn’t get the vaccine for now.

Pfizer representatives said they’ve seen no signs of allergic reactions in their trial. But probably the most FDA advisers fear the British warning will deter millions of Americans with allergies who might get pleasure from the Covid-19 vaccine from giving it a try, and urged extra studies to take a look at to settle the issue.

“This issue isn’t going to die until we have better data,” Offit said.

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