COVID-19 vaccine news gives ‘hope’, but long battle ahead, says Biden

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WILMINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday hailed as a cause for “hope” the news that a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 per cent effective – but warned of a long battle still ahead.

“I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope,” Biden said in a statement, adding that he received advance notice of the announcement on Sunday night.

“At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away,” he added – stressing the continued importance of mask-wearing for the foreseeable future.

READ: Behind Pfizer’s vaccine, an understated husband-and-wife ‘dream team’

This follows Biden’s earlier announcement, during which he named the scientists who will lead his administration’s response to the pandemic, signaling his plans to prioritise COVID-19 from the outset.

The advisory board will be led by three co-chairs: epidemiologist and former Federal Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner David Kessler, former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, and Yale public health professor Marcella Nunez-Smith, according to a statement from the Biden transition team.

In addition, the board will have ten members, ranging from immunologists and epidemiologists to biodefense experts and leading public health officials.

READ: Pfizer says early data signals COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective

READ: Explainer – Where are we in the COVID-19 vaccine race?

COVID-19 has left more than 237,000 people dead in the US – the worst death toll globally – and is surging across the country, which last week voted Donald Trump out in a nail-biting poll.

According to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, the number of new cases in the US has topped 100,000 every 24 hours for several days running, and has exceeded 10 million in total – showing no sign of slowing despite Trump’s claim the world’s biggest economy is “rounding the corner”.

The pandemic remains “one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden was quoted as saying in the statement.

The board will help shape his approach on the surge in cases across the country as well as ensuring a safe vaccine is distributed efficiently while protecting at-risk populations.

READ: WHO chief looks forward to working ‘very closely’ with Biden team

The president-elect has promised that they will create a blueprint he will begin implementing on day one of his presidency.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have announced they will receive a joint virus briefing Monday in Wilmington, Delaware from their advisory team.

Biden will then deliver remarks on coronavirus and economic recovery.

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