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Pfizer coronavirus vaccine faces last hurdle before US decision

by Inside Out
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Canada approves it; UK probing if allergic reactions linked to same COVID-19 shots

There have been many punishing pandemic chapters in 2020 — the beginning, the global spread, mass death in springtime and beyond, lockdowns and economies battered, re-openings and alarming resurgences. This week, the vaccine quantum leap has offered the promise of light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was co-developed with Germany’s BioNTech, faces one final and critical hurdle before an expected decision to green-light the shot for use in millions of Americans. Food and Drug Administration advisers meet today to scrutinize the company’s data for any red flags or oversights.

Safety will be the top priority for the panel of medical experts who will vote on whether to endorse the vaccine. They will also address unknowns about the vaccine’s effectiveness in certain groups. A final FDA decision and the first shots could follow within days, Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone report.

U.S. Vaccine Poll: A new survey from The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves for COVID-19 vaccines even as states frantically prepare to begin months of vaccinations that could end the pandemic. The poll shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated when their turn comes. Roughly another quarter say they won’t, Lauran Neergaard and Hannah Fingerhut report.

U.S. Surge: As the death toll soars, with 3,000 virus fatalities recorded in what is a single-day record, arguments over mask requirements have turned ugly in recent days as the surge engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed at a safe remove from the pandemic. The crisis is expected to get worse nationwide. But resistance to wearing masks has become more vocal and risks turning violent. Some claim the dangers of the virus are overblown and mask requirements are a violation of their civil liberties. Heather Hollingsworth and Ryan Foley report.

Canada’s Green Light: The country’s health regulator has approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine. Canada is set to receive up to 249,000 doses this month and 4 million doses by March. The government has purchased 20 million doses of that vaccine, which requires people to receive two doses each, and it has the option to buy 56 million more. Health Canada is reviewing three other vaccine candidates, including one from Moderna, Rob Gillies reports from Toronto.

U.K.’s Warning: As others proceed, Britain’s medical regulator has warned that people with a history of serious allergic reactions to a vaccine, medicine or food shouldn’t receive the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech as investigators look into whether two reactions on the first day of the country’s vaccination program were linked to the shot.  The advice was issued on a “precautionary basis.” The people who had reactions have recovered. Pfizer and BioNTech say they are working with authorities but that late-stage trials found no serious safety concerns, Danica Kirka reports from London.

Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government will begin administering Pfizer vaccines to the general public on Dec. 27. He said Israel is prepared to vaccinate some 60,000 people a day.  There was no immediate word on whether Israel would be providing vaccines to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or the blockaded Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

”Vaccine Nationalism”: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that “vaccine nationalism” is moving “at full speed,” leaving poor people around the globe watching preparations for inoculations against the coronavirus in some rich nations and wondering if and when they will be vaccinated. He reiterated his call for vaccines to be treated as “a global public good,” available to everyone, everywhere on the planet.

@ AP

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