President-elect Joe Biden on Monday heralded a positive new development in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, but said it will still be several months before most of the country is inoculated and stressed that Americans’ fight against the pandemic is far from over.
Biden said in a statement that he was informed by his public health advisers on Sunday evening about drugmaker Pfizer’s analysis that its coronavirus vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. The results represent the first Phase III data from any of the four vaccine candidates now in the final stage of testing in the United States.
“I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope,” Biden said. “At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”
Biden went on to warn that even if a vaccine is approved by late November, allowing some Americans to be vaccinated as soon as later this year, “it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country.”
For that reason, “Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year,” Biden said. “Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact.”
The U.S. has successively shattered records for daily coronavirus cases in the past week, reporting more than 126,000 new infections on Saturday and closing in on a total of 10 million cases nationwide. More than 237,000 Americans have died from the disease.
Public health experts have warned the pandemic’s toll will only increase in the coming fall and winter months, as the soaring caseloads collide with the annual flu season to potentially overwhelm the country’s strained health care system.
The U.S. is on pace to notch nearly 1 million new coronavirus cases per week by the end of the year, presenting Biden’s incoming administration with a health crisis of epic proportions even before the president-elect assumes office in January.
On Monday, Biden said the rising number of Covid-19 deaths “will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today’s announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same.”
Biden’s statement came shortly after his transition team announced on Monday a Covid-19 “transition advisory board” comprised of a dozen high-profile doctors and co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and Yale’s Marcella Nunez-Smith.
President Donald Trump, who repeatedly promised that a coronavirus vaccine would be made available imminently in the run-up to Election Day, also weighed in on Pfizer’s announcement on Monday morning.
“STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!” Trump tweeted.
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