The FDA Continues To Drag Its Feet on Vaccine Approval
The first batch of the freshly approved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is now being distributed across the country, sparking hopes that we are finally turning a corner on the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to drag its feet in approving additional vaccines.
On Friday, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for this vaccine, allowing Pfizer to start shipping out the first of some 3 million doses from its warehouse in Kalamazoo, Michigan. By noon on Monday, some 55 locations had received their shipments of the vaccine, reports the Wall Street Journal. By Sunday, millions of doses are supposed to ship to over 1,000 locations. By the end of the year, Pfizer says 25 million doses of its vaccine will be available countrywide.
This is all great. The endless stories about healthcare workers getting the first round of vaccine shots are some of the first bits of good news to make it onto the front pages of newspapers and websites in the last nine months.
It’s nevertheless important to remember that the FDA’s approval is coming nearly two weeks after British regulators greenlighted the same vaccine, and almost a month since Pfizer/BioNTech submitted its final data for the agency to review.
Had the FDA acted more swiftly—say by bumping up the December 10 meeting it held to recommend approval of the Pfizer vaccine—Monday’s good news could have arrived a few weeks earlier. Meanwhile, the advisory committee tasked with evaluating another vaccine developed by Moderna is not set to meet until Thursday.
Given the slow rollout of these vaccines (slow, at least, when considered against the number of people needing to be vaccinated), it’s easy to think that the delay of a few days or weeks isn’t all that consequential.
Not so, says George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok, who deploys some back-of-the-envelope math to argue that a few thousa
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