Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy ALLIE YANG, ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Less than 24 hours after Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved by the FDA, Operation Warp Speed’s chief operating officer Gen. Gus Perna said the second vaccine to be approved in the U.S. is being packed and loaded and will be ready to be administered to patients Sunday.Perna said Saturday that amid snowstorms and the holiday shipping rush, 2.9 million doses of the previously-approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered over the last week across the country, to every state.He expects in the coming week, with both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines going out for distribution, there will be 7.9 million doses delivered across 3,700-plus locations, including hospitals, doctor offices and pharmacies.In addition to private companies like Pfizer, Moderna, FedEx and UPS, the OWS collaboration includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the Department of Defense.Perna says he feels “confident” about their goal of processing 20 million vaccines by the end of December and finishing distribution across the U.S. by the first week of January.Perna also addressed allegations that vaccine doses were cut, explaining he took complete personal responsibility in approving a larger number of vaccines that were actually releasable, in part because of the FDA’s rigorous checks for safety, as well as a non-stop production line from manufacturing to processing to distribution.He said he has spoken to governors from several states to personally apologize for the error.“At the end of the day, this is all about enabling the governors and the states to ensure that their people receive the vaccine in a fair and equitable process — and that when they receive it, they can have confidence that the vaccine is safe and ready to be administered in their arms,” Perna said.On Friday, a board of independent advisers overwhelmingly voted to recommend the Moderna vaccine for people over the age of 18. Shortly after, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine, triggering the shipping of 5.9 million doses.The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar in several ways, including using messenger RNA technology, and both have been shown to be more than 94% effective in protecting against COVID-19 across race, gender and underlying medical conditions.Side effects for both vaccines have been shown to be mild and temporary, including symptoms of pain at the injection site, headache, fever, fatigue, chills and muscle and joint pain.The two vaccines have subtle differences, but it will be ultimately unlikely Americans will be able to choose which shot they get as it will depend on which is available in their area.The two differ in part because Moderna’s vaccine can be kept in a conventional freezer at minus 4 degrees, while Pfizer’s requires a special freezer to maintain a minus 94 degree environment.While they both have two-dose timelines, Moderna’s is slightly longer at a 28-day schedule between shots, and Pfizer’s is 21 days.The companies’ vaccines are also authorized for slightly different age groups. Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for people 16 years old and up, while Moderna’s authorization request includes people 18 and older.A third vaccine also is on the horizon. Johnson & Johnson was expected by early January to know whether its vaccine was effective. If that vaccine comes online as well, that “will help us accelerate even faster coverage of that population,” Moncef Slaoui, Trump’s top science adviser in the vaccine effort, told CNBC.ABC News’ Erin Schumaker contributed to this report.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
More than four million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Latin America and the Caribbean, half of them in Brazil, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.The region passed the bleak milestone as Brazil reported a daily record of 67,860 new coronavirus cases Wednesday.Latin America is one of the hardest-hit regions in the world, with 4,040,925 recorded cases and 172,886 people killed by COVID-19. Mexico’s death toll has surged to become the fourth-highest in the world, at 40,400.The country surpassed Italy on Sunday, and now has more victims than anywhere but the United States, Brazil and Britain.Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 15 million people and killed nearly 625,000 since it emerged in China late last year.Brazil in particular has struggled to set a strategy for responding to the pandemic.President Jair Bolsonaro faces criticism for downplaying the virus and attacking social distancing measures adopted by state and local authorities.The far-right leader, who has regularly hit the streets mask-less for rallies by his supporters, has been in quarantine at the presidential palace since July 7 after contracting the virus himself.His office announced Wednesday he had again tested positive, saying he would continue his quarantine and suspend his upcoming travel plans.Bolsonaro, 65, argues the economic fallout from stay-at-home measures could be worse than the virus itself, and is instead pushing the unproven malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as remedies, following in the footsteps of US President Donald Trump.Margareth Dalcomo, an expert at Brazil’s leading public-health institute, Fiocruz, said Bolsonaro’s hydroxychloroquine-pushing was “deplorable.””This politicization of the drug by the US and Brazilian presidents for murky reasons has no justification, and it deceives people,” she told AFP.”It has been proven this drug has no effect against COVID-19.”Bolsonaro is on his third health minister since the pandemic reached Brazil five months ago, after falling out with two doctors who previously held the post over their recommendations on containing the virus.The current minister, an interim, is Eduardo Pazuello, an army general with no prior medical experience.The World Health Organization voiced optimism last week that the outbreak in Brazil had finally reached a plateau, urging the country to use the opportunity to “take control.”But though the level of daily infections and deaths has stabilized, it remains high.The country has recorded an average of more than 37,000 infections and 1,050 deaths a day over the past week. Topics : That is the highest caseload of any region except North America, and the highest death toll of any region except Europe.Brazil alone has registered 2.2 million cases and 82,771 deaths, the second-biggest outbreak in the world after the United States.Although many Latin American countries have begun relaxing stay-at-home measures, the virus is still spreading quickly across much of the region.Peru, Mexico and Chile are also on the list of the top 10 countries by total cases, with well over 300,000 each.