Vaccination

NEW YORK — Pfizer will ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting a process that could bring first shots as early as next month.

The announcement comes days after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech offered preliminary data to suggest its vaccine appears 95% protective.

Over the next few weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its scientific advisers will decide if there’s enough evidence to allow emergency vaccinations. If so, first supplies will be scarce and experts say it likely will be spring before there’s enough for early distribution.

Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that Pfizer’s emergency use authorization application for its coronavirus vaccine candidate “means that hope and help are on the way.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, has said in the meantime, citizens need to “double down on the public health measures” such as wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding travel and people outside the household during Thanksgiving.

The U.S. leads the world with 11.7 million cases and more than 252,000 deaths.

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