U.S. Expects to Immunize 100 Million High-Risk People by End of February, Officials Say

Federal officials said Wednesday they expect to have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to immunize about 100 million higher-risk people in the U.S. by the end of February, including health-care workers, older adults and people with certain health conditions that put them at risk of severe Covid-19.

The projections are based on expectations that health regulators will authorize this month two vaccines, the first from Pfizer with BioNTech, and the second from Moderna. The companies have requested authorization, and the Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide on each after expert advisory committee meetings scheduled for Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.

Initially, supplies will be limited but are expected to grow. Supplies shipped by the end of December are expected to be enough to vaccinate 20 million people, Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to the federal Operation Warp Speed initiative, said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. A federal vaccine advisory committee voted Tuesday to recommend that health workers and residents of long-term care facilities be the first to get vaccinated from the limited early supply because of their risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

In January, there should be enough supply to vaccinate an additional 30 million people, and then 50 million people in February.

“We visualize each week additional vaccines getting out and eventually we just continue to build on the amount of people that get vaccinated and hence, on our way to ending this pandemic,” said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed.

The officials said it is possible that doses of a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, could become available in February if testing is positive and it gets authorized. J&J is testing its vaccine as a single shot, while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given as two injections three or four weeks apart.

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