US Food and Drug Administration chief expects 20m Americans to be vaccinated this year

A woman walks past a "Covid-19 vaccine not yet available" sign outside a store in Arlington, Virginia on Dec 1, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn told Reuters on Friday (Dec 4) it was realistic to expect that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of this year.

Dr Hahn declined to give a specific timeline of how long approval of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech would take, saying only that the regulator would move "very quickly" after an advisory committee meets on Dec 10.

He also said he had a "robust discussion" at a White House meeting with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to discuss the timing of a vaccine.

Many federal officials are expecting a vaccine approval within days of the Dec 10 meeting, though one FDA official recently said an approval decision could take weeks.

A speedy vaccine approval could be a political win for the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump, which has been pushing for effective treatments to help restore a sense of normality to daily life and a hard-hit US economy.

Its Operation Warp Speed programme has struck deals with several drugmakers in an effort to help speed up the search for effective treatments to fight the global pandemic.

Britain leapt ahead of the United States this week in approving Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, intensifying scrutiny on US regulators as they consider whether to grant emergency use in the country that leads the world in coronavirus infections and deaths.

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