- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2020

A coronavirus vaccine is arriving at record speed but that doesn’t mean it will be less safe or effective than other shots, Vice President Mike Pence said Friday, using a tour of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to build confidence in an immunization campaign that “may be a week and a half away.”

“We’ve cut no corners in this,” he said during a Georgia swing that will include a political rally in Savannah ahead of Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.

Mr. Pence acknowledged polling that showed only half of Americans wanted the vaccine in September. He said more Americans are eager to get the shots now, and federal officials will use public-awareness campaigns to gain more ground.

“We want to assure the American people there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in this vaccine,” Mr. Pence said.

He said shots are going out the door quickly by design, because Operation Warp Speed set up manufacturing of the vaccines prior to approval.

The Food and Drug Administration is on pace to approve a Pfizer vaccine after its Dec. 10 meeting with an advisory panel, with a Moderna version to follow before the end of the year. Shots will go out the door and into arms within 48 hours, starting with health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

The CDC says vaccinating health care workers will protect both them and the broader public, since doctors and nurses will be able to stay on the job and treat others instead of entering quarantine.

Health workers will also be sending a signal to the rest of the public that the vaccine is safe and effective.

“They will infuse confidence in the American public,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, chief medical officer of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

Dr. Cohn said it will be important to get community leaders to promote the vaccines within their own neighborhoods, especially in places prone to health disparities or mistrust of government, and listen to people’s concerns instead of dictating behavior.

“Several people have said, ‘I don’t want people to tell me what to do, I want people to talk to me about what to do,’” she said.

Federal officials expect to vaccinate 20 million people before the end of the year.

The initial pool of health workers and long-term care residents accounts for 24 million people out of a U.S. population of 330 million. Once they’re inoculated, the next in line will likely be non-medical essential workers, seniors and people with serious underlying health conditions.

Health officials said people must continue to take precautions while the shots are distributed and herd immunity develops in the U.S. and around the world.

“We’ll need to continue these mitigation measures — the spacing, washing our hands, wearing a mask — probably well into the spring, until we get more widely available vaccine,” said Henry Walke, director of the CDC’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections.

The coronavirus is surging across the country ahead of the winter holidays, taxing hospitals that are reaching capacity limits and exhausting doctors and nurses.

Director Robert Redfield said maintaining hospital capacity will be a key test for the American people.

“That is the critical thing for December and January,” he said.

He said getting nursing home residents vaccinated early will have a positive impact, since they make up an outsized share of hospitalized persons.

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