FDA Grants Emergency Approval To Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

This is first COVID-19 vaccine ever to get emergency approval.

FDA Grants Emergency Approval To Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool

The Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Approval for Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine. This makes it the first vaccine ever to get emergency approval in the U.S. 

Pfizer’s vaccine uses a new technology called messenger RNA, or MRNA. When injected, the RNA enters healthy cells, where it makes coronavirus spike proteins. That prompts an immune response. It comes in two doses, 21 days apart, and is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19. You cannot get COVID from getting the vaccine. 

States have already placed orders for their vaccine doses, and hospitals across the country are planning to step up as vaccination sites this week. 

Even with weekend approval and vaccines being shipped quickly, it'll still be a day or two before shots get into arms. The vaccines need to be repurposed and unfrozen: they come in powder form, and that's mixed with saline to become vaccines. 

But the real hold-up will be logistics -- getting lists of first priority frontline health care workers who want the vaccine, and dividing them up into different times so there’s no crowding.

And because the vaccine can have some side effects, like aches and fatigue, there is the possibility that health care workers may be out for a day or two after they receive the shots -- so hospitals need to time shots properly so no whole unit is out at once. 

Two hospitals I spoke with plan for a Monday or Tuesday arrival of doses, and plan to then begin vaccinating Wednesday or Thursday.