• HHS Secretary Alex Azar has given a rough outline regarding how and when the Pfizer vaccine to fight COVID-19 will start being distributed.
  • In an interview with NBC’s TODAY show, Azar said among other things that Pfizer is preparing to have 20 million doses of the vaccine ready by the end of this month.
  • Moreover, Azar said there should be enough of the vaccine available for widespread public vaccination campaigns to be underway by the spring of 2021.

Good news has been so scarce and hard to come by during the global coronavirus pandemic which, according to the latest Johns Hopkins University data, has now resulted in more than 10.2 million infections in the US and almost 240,000 confirmed deaths. Researchers have been working at a breakneck pace to develop and commercialize a vaccine in record time, and a few days ago we began to see the fruits of an endeavor that normally takes years to pull off.

The Pfizer vaccine that you’ve probably read or heard about by now is starting to look like the breakthrough that everyone has been hoping for. Just a few days ago, the company released the interim Phase 3 results for its mRNA coronavirus vaccine, developed together with the German company BioNTech, which revealed a stunning 90% efficacy rate. Just as promising, Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said in an interview that there appear to be “no safety concerns” so far for the vaccine. And now, thanks to an update shared by US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, we’re starting to have a better idea of when Americans will start receiving their doses of the Pfizer vaccine (which will require two doses, given three weeks apart).

In short, Azar thinks there will be enough of the vaccine available for widespread public vaccination campaigns to be underway by the spring of 2021. Moreover, during an appearance on NBC’s TODAY show, Azar said Pfizer is prepping 20 million doses of the vaccine to have ready by the end of this month.

In a news release Monday, Pfizer said its current projections are for up to 50 million doses of the experimental coronavirus vaccine to be delivered by the end of 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. “We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” said Pfizer chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla. “With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis”

The current thinking, according to Azar, is that there would be enough of the vaccine to begin inoculating health care workers, first responders, and nursing home residents by the end of January (with “enough for all Americans by the end of March to early April to have general vaccination programs”).

In the Pfizer announcement, BioNTech co-founder and CEO Ugur Sahin touted the significance of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, about which he said there is “evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent COVID-19. This is a victory for innovation, science, and a global collaborative effort.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.