COVID vaccine could reach people by mid-December

Pfizer and BioNTech applied for emergency use authorization for their vaccine Friday. Vaccines would be distributed from Kalamazoo.

A vaccine to prevent COVID-19 may be on its way to people as soon as mid-December, according to officials from the U.S. Operation Warp Speed. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted their application for emergency use authorization on Friday.

The new vaccine is just the first of several such vaccines that could gain approval by the Food and Drug Administration. A spokesperson for Pfizer said the vaccine is being produced in Kalamazoo.

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The Kalamazoo County plant “does the formulation, fill and finish steps of the vaccine production. It will the undergo 100% inspection before it is transferred to the packaging lines where it will be labeled and packed,” according to a representative.

Timeline: Before it gains approval, a panel of expert advisers will go through the results of tests conducted by the company over the past few months. That panel is expected to meet December 10.

The chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, said he expected the vaccine to be approved within a day or two of that meeting.

“Within 24 hours from the approval, the vaccine will be moving and located in the areas where each state will have told us where they want the vaccine doses,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Who gets it first?: Not everyone will have immediate access to a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s approved. General Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said he expects about 20 million people will be able to receive the vaccine by year’s end.

Healthcare workers, first responders, and cleaners will be first in line to receive the vaccine. After that will be people with underlying conditions that put them at risk of coronavirus infections, people with two or more chronic conditions, and people 65 or older living in group facilities.

After that would be everyone over 65, workers in high risk situations such as teachers, and people in jails and prisons.

Eventually, everyone would have access to the vaccine. That’s expected to take until late spring of 2021.

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