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US over-75s next in line for COVID shots

An expert committee has put people 75 and older and essential workers like firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers next in line for COVID-19 vaccination in the United States.

This follows the roll-out of a second vaccine starting on Sunday to hospitals, a desperately needed boost as the nation works to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

The developments occurred as the nation seeks to ramp up a vaccination program that only began in the last week and so far has given initial shots to about 556,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Initial shipments of the second COVID-19 vaccine authorised in the US left a distribution centre in Mississippi on Sunday, a desperately needed boost as the nation works to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

Shots of the vaccine, developed by Moderna Inc and the National Institutes of Health, are expected to be given from Monday – three days after the Food and Drug Administration authorised their emergency rollout.

Dr Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser to the federal government’s vaccine distribution effort, told CNN that nearly eight million doses will be distributed on Monday, about 5.9 million of the Moderna vaccine and two million of the vaccine from Pfizer Inc.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel on Sunday recommended frontline essential workers and persons 75 years and older should be next in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The frontline group includes 30 million workers such as first responders, teachers, food and agriculture, manufacturing, US Postal Service, public transit, and grocery store workers.

Public health experts say the vaccines are the only way to stop a virus that has been spreading wildly.

Nationwide, more than 219,000 people a day on average test positive for the virus, which has killed over 316,000 in the US and nearly 1.7 million worldwide.

Slaoui also predicted the US will experience “a continuing surge,” with larger numbers of coronavirus cases possible from gatherings for Christmas.

“I think, unfortunately, it will get worse,” he said.

Vaccines shipped so far are nearly all going to health care workers and residents of long-term care homes, based on the advice of the Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices.

There won’t be enough shots for the general population until spring, so doses will be rationed at least for the next several months.

Both the Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine require two doses several weeks apart. The second dose must be from the same company as the first.

Both vaccines appeared safe and strongly protective in large, still unfinished studies.

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