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Pfizer and BioNTech to seek emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccine Friday

Pfizer and BioNTech to seek emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccine Friday
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Pfizer and its German partner company BioNtech will apply for emergency authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

Azar made the announcement during a rare public appearance of the White House coronavirus task force.

The application would come just two days after the companies announced that final efficacy data on their vaccine candidate showed it to be 95 percent effective. 

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Pfizer last week said that interim data revealed its vaccine to be 90 percent effective. 

The announcement from BioNTech/Pfizer, followed this week by one from rival Moderna of a similarly effective vaccine candidate, raised hopes that control of the virus and an end to the pandemic could be in sight.

Azar said he expects Moderna to file for emergency use shortly.

Depending on how quickly the review process takes, extremely limited initial doses could be administered to people like front-line health workers and other essential personnel before the end of the year. However, it likely won't be until next spring or summer that there are enough doses of vaccines available for widespread distribution.

Azar on Thursday said between the two vaccine candidates, the U.S. expects to have 40 million doses available by the end of the year, which is enough to vaccinate about 20 million people.

Right now, the United States is averaging more than 1 million new infections per week.