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The health secretary, Alex Azar, said on Wednesday that he had met with the Joe Biden transition team in an effort to ensure a smooth rollout in the United States of what health officials hope will be multiple Covid-19 vaccines in the coming months.
“We will ensure a full, cooperative, professional transition,” Azar told CNN. “I’m going to do anything I need to do to make sure no balls are dropped in terms of protecting the American people.”
While Donald Trump, who continues to deny his election loss, excluded Biden officials from a vaccine event at the White House on Wednesday, President-elect Biden has moved ahead with a plan to end the pandemic, announcing the names this week of top officials to lead the effort and pledging 100m vaccine shots in US in his first 100 days in office.
Retired lieutenant general Paul Ostrowski, a top official involved in the vaccination push under the Trump administration, told ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday that the vaccination of the general US population could begin this spring, after essential workers and the most vulnerable are vaccinated.
“We feel very confident that by late March, early April, the rest of the population, those beyond healthcare workers, those beyond the elderly, will be able to receive their vaccines as well,” Ostrowski said.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was expected to issue emergency authorization for use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine within days. The FDA was waiting for the result of a vote by outside experts on Thursday on whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.
The emergency authorization of a second vaccine, developed by Moderna in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, could come shortly afterwards. An outside vote on that vaccine was scheduled for 17 December.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved in the United Kingdom and administered to the first patients outside of clinical trials earlier this week.
While the vaccine rollout in the UK appeared to be running smoothly, regulators warned on Wednesday that people with a “significant history” of allergic reactions should not receive the vaccine. They said they were investigating two cases of allergic reactions from the vaccine so far.
Asked about the allergy concerns on CNN, Azar said it was news to him but he would look into it.
“So I want to make sure the FDA has an opportunity to look at that data,” Azar said. “I’m sure that they’ll speak with UK regulators.”
Prof Stephen Powis, the national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination, after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday. Both are recovering well.”
Ostrowski, the Trump administration official, expressed confidence that the United States would have no trouble acquiring sufficient vaccine doses after recent revelations that the Trump administration had passed on acquiring millions of additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Health officials expect the Moderna vaccine, one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and potentially others to win regulatory approval, Ostrowski said.
Vaccine refusal in the United States remained a top concern, Ostrowski told ABC News.
“My biggest concern is the uptake,” he said. “We want to make sure Americans understand exactly the science that went into this.
“We want to make sure that the vaccines are actually administered and we’re afraid that that won’t happen. We must build the trust of the American people.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Trump’s health secretary meets Biden team to ensure smooth vaccine rollout | World news