FDA Head Backs White House Expectation of 20M Americans Being Vaccinated This Year

The head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday supported the White House's expectation that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated for the novel coronavirus by the end of this year.

During an interview with Reuters, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn was asked if it was realistic for the White House to say that 20 million people will receive a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of 2020.

"So, I think given what we know about supplies, it is realistic," Hahn said. "It'll very much depend upon the vaccination campaign and the final decision of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the Department of Health and Human Services about allocation."

The question posed to Hahn stems from an expected vaccination plan laid out by the White House in November.

In his first public appearance since losing the presidential election, President Donald Trump spoke about the COVID-19 vaccine and said: "Millions of doses will soon be going out the door."

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed program, detailed the vaccination plan during the November press conference. "We plan to have enough vaccine doses available for use in the U.S. population to immunize about 20 million individuals in the month of December," he said, "and another 25 to 30 million per month on an ongoing basis from there on."

Hahn's comments come as two COVID-19 vaccines are currently awaiting emergency use authorization from the FDA following promising results from the vaccines' human trials.

Stephen Hahn
Dr.Stephen Hahn, Commissioner Of Food And Drugs, United States Food and Drug Administration testifies during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine covid-19, focusing on an update on the federal response in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2020. Alex Edelman/Getty

One vaccine developed by Moderna applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA on November 30. If that is approved, Americans could being receiving the vaccine by December 21. Earlier in November, Moderna announced the results from its human trials, which showed it being roughly 94.5 percent effective in combatting the virus.

Similarly, another vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech, submitted its emergency use application on November 20, after preliminary findings showed it having a 90 percent efficacy rate. On Wednesday, the Pfizer vaccine received emergency use approval from the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the U.K.

During his interview with Reuters, Hahn was also asked if he felt pressure from the White House and Trump to speed up the process of approve a vaccine for the general population.

"I'm feeling pressure from the urgency of the situation and the thought that we have a significant pandemic in this country," Hahn responded. "That's where the pressure is coming from and I totally understand, including from the president, from the administration, from Capitol Hill, from the American public, the need for us to move expeditiously."

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there are currently more than 14 million confirmed cases of the novel virus in the U.S., as well as at least 276,513 deaths.

Newsweek was directed to the comments Hahn made during the interview after reaching out to the FDA.