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US panel meets over vaccine approval

A US government panel comprised of outside experts is meeting to decide whether to support an emergency use order for a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.

The panel, which is expected to endorse the vaccine, would issue a non-binding recommendation that is one of the last steps towards vaccine approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If approved by the FDA, millions of Pfizer vaccine doses would be shipped throughout the country, beginning a mass inoculation program.

The final hurdles of the vaccine approval process come as the US records nearly 300,000 people killed by the virus – far more than any other country – in a nearly year-long saga that has devastated the economy.

The UK government has already begun distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, which has also received the green light from Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

This week, the UK drug regulator warned that people with serious allergies should not take the vaccine after two front-line health workers suffered allergic reactions.

The vaccine, developed by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer, must be stored at minus 70C, posing a logistical challenge to distribution.

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