CDC approves Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, allowing U.S. to administer the drug

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has accepted its advisory’s recommendation on the usage of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The agency tweeted out its approval Sunday afternoon.

The CDC said the drug was okay to be administered to people over the age of 16, noting that healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents should be vaccinated first.

The CDC gave the green light for the U.S. to administer the vaccine after its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices gave its nod on Saturday. Their moves came after the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval after a public hearing with Pfizer and BioNTech on Friday.

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The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States headed Sunday from Michigan to distribution centers across the country, with the first shots expected to be given in the coming week to health care workers and at nursing homes.

Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic that has killed 1.6 million and sickened 71 million worldwide.

 With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.

Federal officials said the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine, co-developed by German partner BioNTech, is being doled out based on each state’s adult population.

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The vaccine is heading to hospitals and other sites that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer is using containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled sensors to ensure each shipment stays colder than the weather in Antarctica.

Another vaccine by Moderna will be reviewed by an expert panel this week and soon afterward could be allowed for public use.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.