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A panel made up of scientific experts, infectious disease doctors and statisticians, along with industry representatives, formally recommended on Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. With the advisory panel’s blessing, it’s likely that the agency will authorize the vaccine in a matter of days and for some health care workers and nursing homes to receive it by next week. 

The 17-4 vote (with one abstention) by the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee clears the way for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to be approved by the FDA, as daily coronavirus infections and deaths continue to surge and reach record highs across the country. 

The FDA is not required to follow the panel’s advice, but it regularly does. The agency could potentially grant emergency authorization as early as Friday. 

The advisory panel’s recommendation is a milestone for Pfizer and BioNTech, which started working on the vaccine only 11 months ago. Vaccines normally take years to develop.

FDA approval of the vaccine would be significant for Indian Country, as tribes across the nation continue to be hit hard by the virus. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez spoke with Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla on Wednesday ahead of the advisory panel’s all day meeting. About 150 Navajo citizens volunteered for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine trials, and according to Nez there have not been “any reports of any major side effects or concerns.”

The vaccine has already been given to people in Bahrain and Britain. Canada approved it on Wednesday.

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