Friday night, the FDA greenlit the "emergency use" of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine — the first in the country to get this kind of authorization for battling the pandemic — and, simultaneously, setting up California to receive 327,600 units of it.
Typically, most vaccines for a novel virus (which is exactly what the coronavirus is) can take years to develop. The reason? Sequencing and replicating the new pathogen requires countless iterations as it continues to mutate through any particular population — the virus, itself, shapeshifting and adapting throughout the entire time. But in what's a historic first, not only have five COVID-19 vaccines been developed and entered into trial phases in less than a year's time, but one, the vaccine from Pfizer, was recently authorized for "emergency use to prevent COVID-19" by the FDA.
The story of how Pfizer delivered a #COVID19 vaccine.— Pfizer Inc. (@pfizer) December 12, 2020
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has not been approved or licensed by the @US_FDA but has been authorized for emergency use to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 16 & older. See conditions of use: https://t.co/RbC0OwSEEi https://t.co/6YBZrTytlo
This paves the way for the much-hyped vaccine rollout to start; California is set to receive hundreds of thousands of units by the end of 2020. And the first to be treated with them will be Bay Area healthcare workers.
As reported by KPIX, regional frontline medical workers might start getting the vaccine as early as this coming Monday. UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford waxed to the news outlet that the timing couldn't be better as ICU beds fill across the Bay Area (including in San Mateo County, which was reluctant to join other Bay Area counties in prematurely enacting California's stay-at-home order).
“We’re still experiencing the spike from Thanksgiving," adds Rutherford. "We haven’t been able to turn the corner on it yet. Hospitals are closing because the ICUs are filled."
It worth mentioning that none of the vaccines being shipped to the Bay Area this week are going to be available to the public; a community rollout of the vaccine is likely still months away until high-risk individuals and frontline workers are vaccinated.
NPR has mentioned the full national rollout is expected sometime next spring or early summer — but that exact deadline still remains ambiguous. And given that the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to be effective, the latter season is more likely the reality. (Shipping and storing the vaccine, which needs unusually cold conditions to remain stable, is also proving difficult.)
Nevertheless: Hope and respite from this pandemic are at least somewhere on the horizon... a sentiment most of us struggled to see earlier this summer.
Wear a mask. Socially distance yourselves from others not in your immediate circle. Feel no shame in reporting any social media posts that spew inaccurate falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines.
Image: An example of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine vial is visible on a desk before a Senate Transportation subcommittee hybrid hearing on transporting a coronavirus vaccine on Capitol Hill, on December 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)