A panel of U.S. advisers will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one is approved.
Experts have proposed giving the vaccine to health workers first. High priority also may be given to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people age 65 and older.
Tuesday's meeting is for the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The panel of experts recommends who to vaccinate and when — advice that the government almost always follows. The agenda for next week's emergency meeting was posted Friday.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Their final trial results showed it had a 95 percent success rate and no serious side effects, according to the drugmakers.
The vaccine's efficacy was found to be consistent across different ages and ethnicities — a promising sign given the disease has disproportionately hurt the elderly and certain groups including Black people.
FDA could grant emergency-use by the middle of December, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters a week ago. "If all goes well I could imagine that we gain approval in the second half of December and start deliveries before Christmas, but really only if all goes positively," he said.
FDA's scientific advisers are holding a public meeting Dec. 10 to review Pfizer's request, and send a recommendation to the FDA.
While another U.S.-based drug maker Moderna Inc. is expected to also seek emergency use of its vaccine soon. An initial analysis of data from its late-stage trial showed the vaccine was 94.5 percent effective. Final results and safety data are expected in the coming days or weeks.
Manufacturers already have begun stockpiling coronavirus vaccine doses in anticipation of eventual approval. Meanwhile, United Airlines has started moving shipments of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer, on charter flights to ensure it can be quickly distributed once it is approved, according to a person familiar with the matter.