The second coronavirus vaccine begins distribution as a new strain appears

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has announced that a second coronavirus vaccine will begin shipping this week, with a total of nearly 8 million doses of the two federally approved vaccines to be distributed before the Christmas holiday.

“We are now offended by the virus,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told a media event at Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s initiative to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

Alex Azar
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. (Jeremy Hogan / SOPA Images / LightRocket by Getty Images)

Developments have come with the recent emergence of a variant of coronavirus in the UK, prompting public health experts to worry about the potentially higher rate of transmissibility. However, although the new strain appears to be spreading more easily than the one currently circulating in the United States, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a top scientist for Operation Warp Speed, said the mutation did not cause the virus to become ” more pathogenic ”, meaning that humans would not get sicker or more likely to die if they contracted the mutant version.

Slaoui said the vaccines were made in light of potential mutations, which means the UK’s ability to escape the vaccine’s protective response would likely be extremely low.

The director of Operation Warp Speed, General Gustave Perna, who over the weekend took responsibility for logistical errors involving initial vaccine deliveries, said 7.9 million doses of vaccine were about to be delivered in the next few days: 5.9 million doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and 2 million doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, the first to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The Moderna vaccine will be delivered to 3,500 locations, while the Pfizer vaccine – which requires much lower temperatures for storage and transport – will be delivered to 1,000 locations.

Azar said he would get the Moderna vaccine next week. Vice President Mike Pence received the vaccine last week, and President-elect Joe Biden followed today. It is unclear whether or when President Trump will be vaccinated. He contracted the coronavirus in October and received treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Diana Rodriguez
Dr. Diana Rodriguez receives a shot from the first batch of COVID-19 Moderna vaccine in Hartford, Conn., Monday. (Joseph Prezioso / AFP via Getty Images)

Trump had backed the promise of an effective vaccine almost as soon as the pandemic began. And, although several highly effective vaccines have been developed in record time, in recent weeks the president has instead focused on his electoral fraud claims, which have been repeatedly rejected by the courts as well as by officials. Republicans and Democrats, not to mention the attorney general.

Speaking on Monday, Azar reiterated that he believes that 20 million people will be vaccinated by the end of the year. He said that by the end of February there would be 100 million “blows in the arms”, ie people receiving either the first or second dose of vaccine.

Biden provided a more cautious timeline, saying earlier this month that those 100 million photos will come in the first 100 days of his presidency, suggesting that the effort cannot be completed until April.

And while Azar told reporters that “generalized vaccination programs” for those not in critical areas or for vulnerable populations could begin in March, the incoming administration appears to be more cautious.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said widespread vaccination would not take place until “summer or early fall.”

Murthy said it’s important to be “realistic about the timing.”


Read more from Yahoo News: