WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States entered the final month of the year hoping that promising vaccine candidates will soon be approved to halt the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus after 4.2 million new cases were reported in November.

The new COVID-19 cases were more than double the previous monthly record set in October, as large numbers of Americans still refuse to refuse to wear masks and continue to gather in holiday crowds, against the recommendation of experts.

With outgoing President Donald Trump’s coronavirus strategy relying heavily on a vaccine, a Food and Drug Administration panel of outside advisers will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to recommend the FDA authorize emergency use of a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc.

A second candidate from Moderna Inc could follow a week later, officials have said, raising hopes that Americans could start receiving inoculations before the end the year, although widespread vaccinations could take months.

Other global pharmaceuticals including AstraZeneca PLC and Johnson & Johnson also have vaccines in the works, leading a member of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” program to predict the country could be vaccinated by June.

One hundred percent of the Americans that want the vaccine will have the vaccine by (June). We will have over 300 million doses available to the American public well before then,” Paul Ostrowski, the vaccine program’s director of supply, production and distribution, told MSNBC television on Monday.

In the meantime, leading health officials are pleading with Americans to follow their recommendations and help arrest a pandemic that killed more than 36,000 people in November, pushing hospitalizations to a record high of nearly 93,000 on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally.

The widespread impact of the pandemic has led Merriam-Webster to choose “pandemic” as the Word of the Year after it racked up the most online dictionary lookups of any word. Read More

By Ian Dei

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