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CDC gives final OK to Pfizer vaccine ahead of first doses, likely on Monday

A small crowd cheered as semi-trucks rolled out of the loading dock at a Pfizer manufacturing plant in Michigan, on Sunday, beginning historic journeys to deliver insulated boxes of the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine to hospitals and health departments across America.

Hours later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally announced that it had signed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation of the first authorized coronavirus vaccine for people 16 years and older. Plans call for health care personnel and long-term care facility residents to be vaccinated first.

Earlier, the caravan of FedEx, UPS, and Boyle Transportation trucks accompanied by unmarked police cars pulled out of the parking lot about 8:25 a.m., headed to airports and distribution centers. Pfizer has said it will deliver 6.4 million doses in these initial shipments. Federal officials say the deliveries will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday and the remaining 66 on Wednesday.

Army Gen. Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine-development program, said vaccines should arrive at many sites early Monday. The first inoculations could come that day.

The vaccine is offering hope in the fight against a pandemic that has killed nearly 300,000 in the U.S. alone. But it will take months to produce and distribute enough to vaccinate most Americans, and experts warn that infections, hospitalizations, and deaths will likely climb this winter.

Here are today’s top headlines:

  • An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Saturday to recommend the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people 16 and older. CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield on Sunday said he has given his clearance.
  • The Food and Drug Administration late Friday granted emergency use of the vaccine.
  • The U.S. has recorded more than 16 million cases of COVID-19, by far the most of any country in the world.
  • About 1 in 8 U.S. hospitals had few or no intensive care unit beds available last week, according to new federal data. Experts say the number of hospitals struggling to accommodate the nation’s sickest patients likely will increase following another week of record COVID-19 cases.