Story at a glance
- James Hildreth of the FDA said the agency will make a decision on vaccine data by Thursday evening.
- A distribution network will be designed by the U.S. military.
The forthcoming and highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine is undergoing emergency use authorization (EUA) approval, sparking questions about the exact timeline mass doses can be distributed to the public.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have formally recommended that initial doses be given to health care workers and long-term care residents, the deployment of these initial doses serves as a harbinger for when more doses to the general public will be available.
Speaking to NBC on Saturday, Dec. 5, James Hildreth, a member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory committee and the President and CEO of Meharry Medical College, said that the oversight committee is planning to review clinical data from Pfizer on Thursday, leaving the possibility of FDA approval — and initial vaccinations — by late this week.
“If the FDA Commissioner decides to issue approval, the EUA, on that day when the vote is taken, as early as Friday of next week we could see vaccinations happening across the country,” Hildreth said over the weekend.
He further credits the rapid development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine to modernized science and technology, rather than the FDA taking shortcuts to approve a potential vaccine to halt the pandemic.
“The fast speed of the developing of this vaccine is related to technology, existing infrastructure and to really incredible science,” Hildreth said.
He further clarified that the U.S. Army will be placed in charge of organizing a distribution infrastructure for the vaccine upon FDA approval, something he says the military does “very well.”
The U.S. military will also be working in tandem with large pharmaceutical companies, namely CVS, to reach large swaths of the American public.
“CVS stores, if you look at them in total, 80 percent of our population lives within three miles of a CVS store and that’s one example of how we’re mobilizing, taking advantage of existing infrastructure to make sure we get this right,” Hildreth explained.