Late on Friday, the United States green-lighted the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, opening the way for millions of disadvantaged persons to collect their vaccines in the hardest-hit country in the world.
President Donald Trump subsequently posted a Twitter video in which he praised the report as a “medical miracle” and said that “within less than 24 hours” the first immunisations will take place.
With the bleak mark of 300,000 confirmed deaths quickly approaching, it comes as diseases across America soar as never before.
After Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, the USA is currently the sixth country to authorise the two-dose protocol.
The decision came sooner than expected and capped a day of drama after it was widely reported that if he did not give emergency permission Friday, the White House had threatened to fire Food and Drug Administration head Stephen Hahn.
The involvement of Trump reintegrates politics into the science method, which some critics have claimed could weaken confidence in vaccinations.
This month alone, the US is attempting to inoculate 20 million people, with occupants of long-term care facilities and health care staff at the head of the queue.
The government also said Friday that the Moderna vaccine candidate is purchasing 100m more doses, in the wake of news that the government missed on the chance to secure more supply of the Pfizer jab. The acquisition takes its cumulative stock of Moderna doses to 200 m, enough to immunise the two-shot regimen that could be accepted as early as next week for 100 m individuals.
MRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid), a significant victory for a technique that has never been proven before, is the foundation of both frontrunners.
Two other contenders for the vaccine slipped on Friday: Sanofi of France and GSK of Britain said their vaccine would not be available until the end of 2021.
And in Australia, after clinical trials produced a false positive HIV outcome among subjects interested in early research, the production of a vaccine at the University of Queensland was abandoned on Friday.
The mixed news on the vaccine front comes when outbreaks in North America and parts of Africa increased quickly, but continued to stabilise in Europe and decline in Asia and the Middle East.
According to an AFP count from official reports, over 1.58 million lives have been lost to Covid-19 around the world since it appeared in China a year ago.
Brazil suffered 180,000 deaths on Friday, amid the insistence of President Jair Bolsonaro that the outbreak was at the “tail end.” But New Zealand, which has been lauded for its treatment of the epidemic across the Pacific Ocean, took the first preliminary measures with the tiny Cook Islands to reopen its borders.
Meanwhile, countries that accepted the Pfizer-BioNTech jab were planning for the roll-out, as warned by the World Health Organisation of a potentially bleak Christmas season.
The first vaccine shipments to 14 locations across Canada was expected to arrive on Monday, following the example of Britain, with individuals getting vaccines a day or two later.
Israel, which on Wednesday approved the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, is expecting a roll-out on December 27.
And on Friday, Hong Kong said it had signed deals for two vaccines with intentions to begin a campaign in early 2021, one from Pfizer and the other from Beijing-based Sinovac.
A new combined method is also being tested by AstraZeneca, whose Russian operation has declared that in clinical trials it will pair the shot with the locally developed Sputnik V vaccine.
Inoculation drives for locally manufactured vaccines that have had less stringent vetting have already been initiated by Russia and China.
EU countries are cautiously expecting acceptance of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at the end of December and the beginning of January.