Race for a vaccine: Is ‘help on the way’ as promised? Find out the latest here

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech will seek emergency government approval for their coronavirus vaccine, as the U.S. aims to begin administering doses by the end of the year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the companies would seek an emergency use authorization Friday from the Food and Drug Administration. The application and clinical trial data will be reviewed by an independent board of scientists before approval is granted.

Azar says: “Hope and help are on the way.”

This week the companies said their vaccine was 95% effective. Moderna is expected to file for emergency approval for its own vaccine candidate in the coming weeks.

Europe promises vaccine by next month

The European Union’s top official said Thursday that two COVID-19 vaccines could receive conditional market authorization as early as the second half of December.

Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer, which created its serum with German drugmaker BioNTech, could be approved by the end of the year by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “if all proceeds now without any problem.” 

The European commission has sealed deals with several pharmaceutical companies including BioNTech and Pfizer to buy millions of doses of vaccines on behalf of all EU Member States. Von der Leyen said earlier this week the commission hopes a deal with Moderna will be soon finalized.

Alternative treatment authorized

Federal regulators have authorized emergency use of another COVID-19 treatment, the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib, to be used in combination with a drug already used to treat severely ill, hospitalized patients.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday cleared the new use for Eli Lilly’s pill baricitinib plus remdesivir for hospitalized adults and children two years and older requiring oxygen or ventilation therapy.

Remdesivir is the first and only drug approved by FDA to treat COVID-19. The emergency clearance for baricitinib acts as a preliminary approval until more data is available showing the drug works for COVID-19.