CDC advisory committee recommends Pfizer vaccine for use, vaccines start shipping Sunday from Michigan

A nurse holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
A nurse holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Photo credit Frank Augstein - Pool / Getty Images

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory committee on Saturday voted to recommend use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in individuals 16 and older.

The panel recommended the vaccine with 11 in favor, 0 against, and three recusing due to prior conflicts.

Vaccines cannot be administered until CDC chief Dr. Robert Redfield accepts the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' recommendation, which is expected to happen later on Saturday, CNN reported.

Pfizer said Saturday that it will begin shipping its COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday after the Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the vaccine for emergency use.

Pfizer told reporters that it expected the first vaccine shipments to begin leaving a facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday morning, according to CNN.

Gen. Gus Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said Saturday that he expects the first shipments of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to arrive Monday morning at sites across the U.S.

“Make no mistake, distribution has begun,” Perna said at a press conference Saturday morning. “Right now, boxes are being packed and loaded with vaccine, with emphasis on quality control.”

“Within the next 24 hours, they will begin moving the vaccine from the Pfizer manufacturing facility to the UPS and FedEx hubs, and then it will go out to the 636 locations nationwide, which were identified by the states and the territories,” Perna said.

He said he expects 145 sites across all the states to receive the vaccine on Monday and another 425 sites on Tuesday. The final 66 sites will receive it on Wednesday.

“I am absolutely 100% confident that we are going to distribute safely this precious commodity, this vaccine needed to defeat the enemy, COVID,” Perna said.

“This is a monumental week for us all as we distribute the first millions of doses of vaccines to the American people,” he added. “But each week that follows, we will have more doses ready for allocation and distribution. We are also posturing to phase in the Moderna vaccine if they receive an EUA.”

The FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Friday night, following an advisory panel's recommendation on Thursday that the vaccine's benefits outweigh its risks for individuals 16 and over.

While on "Good Morning America" Friday morning, Health and Human Services Director Alex Azar said Americans "could see people getting vaccinated Monday, Tuesday of next week."

The FDA was not required to follow the advisory panel's recommendation, but it was expected that the federal agency would follow their guidance, given the nearly 300,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. Plus, countries including the U.K. and Canada have approved the vaccine, as well.

On Friday morning, President Trump took aim at the FDA, tweeting, "While my pushing the money drenched but heavily bureaucratic @US_FDA saved five years in the approval of NUMEROUS great new vaccines, it is still a big, old, slow turtle. Get the dam vaccines out NOW, Dr. Hahn @SteveFDA. Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!"

The FDA's announcement also followed reports that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told FDA chief Stephen Hahn on Friday to grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine by the end of the day or face possible firing, The Associated Press reported, citing two administration officials.

Hahn, however, said that was not an accurate characterization of the phone call.

"This is an untrue representation of the phone call with the Chief of Staff," Hahn said in a statement. "The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech’s EUA request. FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning."

On Friday morning, the FDA said in a statement, "Following yesterday’s positive advisory committee meeting outcome regarding the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has informed the sponsor that it will rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization. The agency has also notified the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution."