A new report issued this week by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the coronavirus death toll could reach up to 321,000 by the middle of December.
According to the CDC’s “COVID-19 Forecasts: Deaths,” models are predicting the number of coronavirus deaths will likely increase over the next four weeks, with between 10,600 and 21,400 new fatalities likely to be reported in the week ending Dec. 19, 2020.
The model predicts between 294,000 and 321,000 total coronavirus deaths will have been reported by that time.
As of Friday afternoon, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine had recorded more than 263,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S., and more than 12.9 million confirmed cases, both figures far more than any other nation in the world.
Globally, Johns Hopkins has recorded more than 61.2 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump said vaccine distributions to front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens will begin next week. The announcement came during a special Thanksgiving holiday message to U.S. troops overseas via teleconference, according to Fox News. Trump noted that front-line workers, medical personnel and senior citizens would be the vaccine’s first recipients.
On Dec. 10, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration will review Pfizer’s request for an emergency use of its vaccine. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have applied for emergency authorization of their coronavirus vaccine, a signal that a powerful tool to help control the pandemic could begin to be available by late December.
Before any vaccine is permitted in the U.S., it must be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires study in thousands of people. Normally, the process to approve a new vaccine can take about a decade. But the federal government is using various methods to dramatically speed up the process for COVID-19 vaccines.
During a health crisis, the FDA can loosen its normal scientific standards to allow emergency use of experimental drugs, devices, vaccines and other medical products. The first vaccines to get the provisional green light in the U.S. are almost certain to be made available under this process, known as emergency use authorization.
Instead of the usual requirement of “substantial evidence” of safety and effectiveness for approval, the FDA can allow products onto the market as long as their benefits are likely to outweigh their risks. It has already used its emergency powers to authorize hundreds of coronavirus tests and a handful of treatments during the pandemic.
But the agency has almost no experience granting emergency use for vaccines and has laid out extra standards it will use to make decisions on upcoming COVID-19 shots.
In October, FDA officials told vaccine makers they should have two months of safety follow-up from half of the people enrolled in their studies before requesting emergency authorization. That data is expected to be enough for FDA to allow vaccinations of certain high-risk groups, such as front-line health workers and nursing home residents.
Full approval of a vaccine will likely require six months of safety follow-up as well as extensive inspections of company manufacturing sites. The leading vaccine makers are not expected to complete that process until next spring or summer. Only then is the FDA expected to grant full approval, which would allow vaccinations of the general population.
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