REUTERS: With Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine distribution imminent after US authorisation on Friday (Dec 11), top regulators sought to reassure Americans that the record fast pace was warranted and had not sacrificed safety.
"We worked quickly based on the urgency of this pandemic, not because of any other external pressure," US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said during a press conference.
The United States on Friday evening granted an emergency use authorisation for the vaccine for people aged 16 and older. It was shown to be 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 in a late-stage trial.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved the use of the vaccine by pilots and air traffic controllers.
The US aviation regulator said pilots and controllers must not fly or conduct safety-related duties for 48 hours after receiving doses. The FAA said it will "monitor the patient response to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and may adjust this policy as necessary to ensure aviation safety."
It is the first COVID-19 vaccine authorised in the United States, where the pandemic has killed more than 295,000 people. Britain, Canada and three other countries have already authorised the shot from US-based Pfizer and German partner BioNTech.
The Trump administration has poured billions of dollars into developing vaccines and will manage the distribution and allocation to states. The first 2.9 million doses are expected to roll out of Pfizer plants in the coming days, with more shipments each week.
Healthcare workers and elderly people in long-term care facilities are expected to be the main recipients of the first wave of shots in December, with more US residents becoming eligible in January. Authorities have said general availability of the vaccine is expected by April.