Coronavirus: US 'few short days away' from 'beginning of the end' of pandemic, Mike Pence says

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says 100m Americans to be vaccinated by end of February

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 10 December 2020 18:19
What you need to know about the coronavirus vaccines (high res).mp4

Vice President Mike Pence said the US is only a “few short days away” from the “beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic” while discussing Covid-19 vaccines in South Carolina.

Mr Pence gave the comments at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and was joined by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, as well as other state officials. 

Thursday’s roundtable was focused on the likely-upcoming approval of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines by the US Food and Drug Administration and its subsequent distribution throughout the US. 

Mr Azar said he believes that 100m total vaccinations can be given by the end of February.  

Mr Pence praised Operation Warp Speed for its “incredible speed” and attributed the development of the “medical miracle" coronavirus vaccines to the programme.

Pfizer, which developed one of the two leading vaccines under consideration for approval by the FDA, has disputed the White House’s attempts to lump it in with Operation Warp Speed. While the US did buy doses from Pfizer in anticipation of its success, Pfizer did not accept US money for the development of the vaccine. 

Mr Pence said that “America has never been better prepared to combat the coronavirus than we are today,” while still noting that the coronavirus cases in the US are growing. More than 3,000 Americans died due to the virus in a single day this week alone. 

The vice president insisted that the White House did not encourage companies developing the vaccine to cut corners, and said the drug would be safe. 

Distribution of the vaccine will begin within 24 hours of its approval by the FDA. Mr Pence said the government has partnered with UPS, FedEx and McKesson, a medical supply and technology wholesale company. CVS and Walgreens have agreed to administer the vaccines in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Mr Azar said that - barring any complications - 20m Americans can be vaccinated by the end of December, and 100m by the end of February. 

The Health and Human Services secretary said that distribution relied on cooperation between the federal government and the states. He noted that the federal government has paid for the cost of the vaccines and the shipping costs, and that private sector partners have paid for the administrative costs associated with using their services. 

Mr Azar also explained that states would have flexibility in determining how their vaccines are distributed. 

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