US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech confirmed they would seek approval on Friday to roll out their coronavirus vaccine early as surging infections forced New York to shut schools and California braced for nighttime curfews.
The world is looking to scientists for salvation from the global pandemic but a second wave of infections is prompting a return to the shutdowns and closures that traumatised nations and upturned the global economy at the start of the year.
The first tangible signs of relief could come Friday when Pfizer and BioNTech file an emergency use authorisation request with the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine has never been more urgent,” Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said. “Filing in the US represents a critical milestone in our journey to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to the world.”
The scientific head of the US operation to develop a vaccine said the final green light would probably come in December.
No quick fix
The BioNTech/Pfizer shot and another one being developed by the US firm Moderna have taken the lead in the global chase for a vaccine.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the European bloc could also approve both before the end of the year.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday he hoped to get “a very substantial part” of the nation of 47 million people vaccinated by mid-2021.
But no immediate reprieve is coming and the new wave of the pandemic is hitting many regions harder than the first since the virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Worldwide deaths are approaching 1.4 million and total infections nearing 57 million — although the true numbers are unknown since countries have different reporting methods and many cases go undetected.
India’s infections have surpassed nine million — second only to the United States — and some of its graveyards have been running out of room since it lifted restrictions to save the economy after the loss of millions of jobs.
“Initially when the virus broke (out), I thought I’ll bury 100-200 people and it’ll be done. But the current situation is beyond my wildest thoughts,” New Delhi gravedigger Mohammed Shamim told AFP.
And Mexico became the fourth country to see its death toll breach 100,000.
“We’re at a point where we don’t see a clear phase of descent,” former Mexican health ministry official Malaquias Lopez told AFP. “We don’t know where it’s going.”