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Americans face growing raft of Covid-19 restrictions as emergency vaccine request to be filed

An emergency use authorisation request for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is expected to be filed today.

People line up in their vehicles to get tested for Covid-19 in Scottsdale, Arizona
People line up in their vehicles to get tested for Covid-19 in Scottsdale, Arizona
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE US IS facing a growing raft of coronavirus restrictions, even as pharma giant Pfizer and partner BioNTech prepared to file an emergency request to roll out their vaccine.

California announced a night-time curfew and authorities urged people everywhere not to travel for Thanksgiving as the country was hit by a spike of more than 2,200 deaths – the worst daily toll since May.

An emergency use authorisation request for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is expected to be filed with the US Food and Drug Administration today, the government and BioNTech’s co-founder said.

Health Secretary Alex Azar told a White House briefing that the application was coming in the next day, confirming a timeline BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin shared with AFP.

“The documents will be finalised today and tomorrow and submitted to the FDA,” Sahin told AFP.

Moncef Slaoui, the scientific head of the US operation to develop a vaccine, said the final green light would probably come in December – a timeframe echoed by Sahin.

The European Union could also approve the vaccine as well as another one by Moderna before the end of next month, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday.

The two candidates have taken the lead in the global chase for a solution, after large-scale trial data this month showed their jabs were around 95% effective.

But the speed at which the vaccines have been developed has raised alarm in some quarters.

Top US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci sought to dispel those concerns during a rare briefing by the White House task force yesterday.

“The process of the speed did not compromise at all safety nor did it compromise scientific integrity. It was a reflection of the extraordinary scientific advances in these types of vaccines,” Fauci said.

In China nearly a million people have already taken an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinopharm, the firm said, although it has not yet provided any clear clinical evidence of efficacy.

The country has been giving experimental Covid-19 vaccines to people, including state employees, international students and essential workers heading abroad since July.

Beijing has been bullish about the science, with four vaccines now in late-stage testing.

‘Strong recommendation’

The recent surge in US infections has sufficiently alarmed authorities to request that Americans stay at home for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, which normally sees millions travel.

“It’s not a requirement. It’s a strong recommendation,” Henry Walke, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctor, told reporters.

US states and cities have been imposing their own restrictions, including home confinement, the closure of indoor dining and a limit on gatherings as infections soar across the country.

New York City yesterday closed its schools – affecting 1.1 million students – but left gyms and bars open.

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California will impose a 10pm to 5am curfew from tomorrow, with state Governor Gavin Newsom saying it was “crucial to decrease transmission and slow hospitalisations”.

With reporting by © – AFP, 2020

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