WASHINGTON (AFP) – United States (US) experts voted on Thursday to recommend granting emergency approval for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for America to become the next country to move ahead with mass immunisation.
It comes as the worst-hit country in the world logged nearly 6,000 virus deaths in 48 hours and its overall toll was approaching 300,000.
With northern hemisphere countries hit by a pandemic winter surge, Britain this week became the first Western country to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have also approved it.
EU countries eagerly awaited clearance for vaccines that the bloc’s own watchdog said remained on track for approval despite a two-week-long cyberattack, which is under investigation.
But another vaccine development effort suffered a setback as France’s Sanofi and Britain’s GSK said their jab will not be ready until the end of 2021, after interim results showed a low immune response in older adults.
Although the vote by independent experts convened by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is non-binding, a formal emergency use authorisation (EUA) is expected within days.
Momentum was building as the New England Journal of Medicine published full results of a clinical trial of the vaccine involving nearly 44,000 people, which confirmed it was 95 per cent effective.