US FDA decides to approve Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine on emergency basis: report

Published December 18, 2020
Vials with a sticker reading, “Covid-19/Coronavirus vaccine/Injection only” and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. — Reuters
Vials with a sticker reading, “Covid-19/Coronavirus vaccine/Injection only” and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. — Reuters

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided on Thursday night to approve Moderna Inc's coronavirus vaccine on an emergency basis, the Financial Times reported, citing people close to the process.

The report comes after the FDA said it informed Moderna that it would rapidly work towards the finalisation and issuance of emergency use authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, according to commissioner Stephen Hahn.

On Thursday, a panel of external advisers to the FDA overwhelmingly endorsed emergency use of Moderna vaccine candidate, virtually assuring a second option for protecting against Covid-19 for a pandemic-ravaged nation.

Covid-19 surge pushes US hospitals to brink

Meanwhile, an unrelenting coronavirus surge has pushed besieged hospitals further to the brink as the United States pressed on with its immunization rollout on Thursday.

Covid-19 hospitalisations rose to record heights for a 19th straight day, with nearly 113,000 coronavirus patients counted in US medical facilities nationwide on Wednesday, while 3,580 more perished, the most yet in a single day.

The virus has claimed almost 308,000 lives in the United States to date, and health experts have warned of a deepening crisis this winter as intensive care units (ICUs) filled up and hospital beds overflowed into hallways.

“We expect to have more dead bodies that we have spaces for them,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a briefing on Thursday, adding that the country's second largest city had fully exhausted its ICU capacity.

Some health workers wary of vaccine

The initial 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine began shipping on Sunday and were still making their way to hospitals across the country and into the arms of doctors, nurses, and other frontline medical professionals.

Some of the first shots were also going to residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Later vaccine rounds will go to other essential workers, senior citizens and people with chronic health conditions.

It will take several months before vaccines are widely available to the public on demand, and opinion polls have found many Americans hesitant about getting inoculated.

Some are distrustful of immunisations in general, and some are wary of the unprecedented speed with which the first vaccines were developed and rolled out — 11 months from the first documented US cases of Covid-19.

Public health authorities have sought to reassure Americans that the vaccines are safe as well as highly effective at preventing illness.

But ambivalence has emerged even among pockets of healthcare workers designated as first in line for inoculation.

“Some are on the fence. Some feel that we need to get it done. It's split down the middle,” Diego Montes Lopez, 28, a phlebotomist at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, said of co-workers after getting injected himself.

Public service messaging about vaccines has been mixed with urgent pleas for Americans to remain diligent about social distancing and mask-wearing until immunisations become widely available.

They point to data showing infections continuing to spread virtually unabated across much of the country, apparently fueled by increased transmissions of the virus as many Americans disregarded warnings to avoid social gatherings and unnecessary travel over the Thanksgiving holiday last month.

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