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Covid-19 vaccine to reach distribution centres across US by today

WASHINGTON: The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will reach hospitals and other sites across the US by this morning, a top official said on Saturday, ready to be injected into the arms of millions of the most vulnerable Americans.

The US hit a record 16 million cases on Saturday afternoon, with deaths closing in on the 300,000 mark.

Doses of the Pfizer vaccine were scheduled to leave the company's factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday, stored in boxes containing dry ice that are capable of staying at -70 deg C, the frigid temperature needed to preserve the drug.

General Gus Perna, who is overseeing the massive logistical operation as part of the government's Operation Warp Speed, likened the moment to D-Day, the turning point of World War II.

"I am absolutely 100 per cent confident that we are going to distribute safely, this precious commodity, this vaccine, needed to defeat the enemy Covid," he told reporters.

Gen Perna said hundreds of sites, including hospitals and other distribution centres, would receive the vaccines from today to Wednesday, which would cover the first wave of about three million people to be vaccinated.

Federal health authorities have recommended that healthcare workers and nursing home residents be at the front of the line. The US is seeking to inoculate 20 million people this month alone.

The US became the sixth country to green-light the Pfizer vaccine on Friday night, after Britain, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

The vaccine has shown in a clinical trial of 44,000 people to be 95 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19, and no serious safety concerns have been identified.

But after two healthcare workers in Britain suffered severe allergic reactions, the FDA has advised people who have known allergies to the vaccine's ingredients to avoid getting it. - AFP, REUTERS

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