- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Vaccine inventor and BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said British approval Wednesday of the coronavirus vaccine that his company developed with Pfizer marks the “beginning of the end of the pandemic.”

The U.K.’s decision made it the first country in the West to approve a vaccine for use outside of trials, ratcheting up pressure on American regulators vetting the same Pfizer vaccine as the virus rages across the world.

“I am confident that authorization in the U.S. could also happen within the next two weeks,” Dr. Sahin, whose company is based in Mainz, Germany, told NBC’s “Today” show.

“It’s a historic day,” Dr. Sahin said Wednesday. “It’s indeed the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”

The U.K. said it plans to begin vaccinating people next week, starting with elderly people in long-term care and their health providers. Right now, the country has 40 million doses in the pipeline, enough to immunize 20 million people with the two-dose vaccine.

“Help is on the way. We can now see the way out,” U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told NBC.

The Pfizer vaccine, which uses messenger-RNA and must be stored at ultra-low temperatures, was 95% effective in human trials.

A similar candidate from Moderna is also under review by the Food and Drug Administration, which is facing heat from a White House that wants it to move faster.

The FDA is set to meet with an advisory panel on Dec. 10, so emergency-use authorization should follow shortly after the session. A similar meeting is set for the Moderna candidate on Dec. 17.

Federal officials say the first tranche of over 6 million doses will go out the door within 24 hours of approval. They want to immunize at least 20 million Americans before the end of the year.

An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities — a combined population of about 24 million — should be first in line.

CDC Director Robert Redfield is set to review and approve the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Governors can choose whether to ignore the advice, though they typically follow the path set by ACIP.

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