Pfizer and BioNTech will apply for emergency use of their successful coronavirus vaccine in America amid hopes it could be approved in the first half of December.
The US pharmaceutical giant and German firm were on Friday (US time) filing for emergency authorisation with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
US officials hope 20 million people could be inoculated by the end of the year.
The move comes as America logged another record number of new coronavirus cases in a day, as the country is in the grips of its third – and biggest yet – wave of the pandemic.
Data released by Johns Hopkins University on Friday (local time) showed 187,833 infections were reported the day before, exceeding the last daily record by more than 10,000 cases.
Deaths on Thursday spiked at an alarming 2015 in a day, marking the first time since the beginning of May that the number of fatalities surpassed 2000.
Hospitalisations are also at record highs, straining health care systems.
The US, which has a population of about 330 million, has registered far more deaths and cases than any other country, recording more than 252,500 fatalities and 11.7 million infections since the start of the pandemic.
Multiple states are cracking down with new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a month-long curfew, requiring nearly all of the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home between 10pm and 5am.
Health authorities have urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving next week, a major US holiday in which families usually gather.
Canada is also recording a massive spike in COVID-19 cases which could overwhelm the hospital system, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, imploring Canadians to stay home as much as possible.
A second wave is ripping across the country, forcing several provinces to reimpose restrictions on movement and businesses.
Mr Trudeau, said “a normal Christmas is quite frankly right out of the question”.
“Cases across the country are spiking massively. We are facing winter, that’s going to drive people inside more and more, and we’re really at risk of seeing case loads go up and hospitals get overwhelmed,” Mr Trudeau said.
Study confirms virus immunity
People who’ve had COVID-19 are highly unlikely to contract it again for at least six months, according to a British study of healthcare workers on the pandemic frontline.
The findings should offer some reassurance for the more than 51 million people worldwide who have been infected with the pandemic disease, researchers at the University of Oxford said.
“This is really good news, because we can be confident that, at least in the short term, most people who get COVID-19 won’t get it again,” said David Eyre, a professor at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, who co-led the study.
Senior World Health Organisation officials welcomed the study’s findings.
“We are seeing sustained levels of immune response in humans so far,” said Mike Ryan, WHO’s top emergency expert.
“It also gives us hope on the vaccine side.”
Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, added: “We still need to follow these individuals for a longer period of time to see how long immunity lasts.”
Isolated cases of re-infection with COVID-19 had raised concerns that immunity might be short-lived and that recovered patients may swiftly fall sick again.
But the results of this study, carried out in a cohort of UK healthcare workers suggest cases of reinfection are likely to remain extremely rare.
“Being infected with COVID-19 does offer protection against re-infection for most people for at least six months,” Professor Eyre said.
“We found no new symptomatic infections in any of the participants who had tested positive for antibodies.”
The study, part of a major staff testing program, covered a 30-week period between April and November 2020.
Its results have not peer-reviewed by other scientists but were published before review on the MedRxiv website.