President Donald Trump said Friday that the United States has authorized a second coronavirus vaccine, jumping the gun on regulators who have yet to give it the formal green light.
"Moderna vaccine overwhelmingly approved. Distribution to start immediately," he wrote on Twitter.
This follows a recommendation by an expert panel on Thursday to grant emergency use approval for Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine in the United States.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue formal approval Friday. This would make Moderna's vaccine the second to be approved in a Western country following the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.
Trump's announcement came as US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife received the Covid-19 vaccine live on television, in a public display designed to boost national confidence in the measure.
Pence indicated that formal approval for Moderna would be a matter of hours.
"We have one, perhaps within hours two, safe and effective coronavirus vaccines," he said.
Thursday's hearing came as the number of deaths from the coronavirus quickly approaches 310,000 in the country with the world's biggest Covid-19 outbreak, which this week began vaccinating health care workers and long-term care residents with the Pfizer vaccine.
Both of the frontrunner vaccines are based on cutting-edge mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) technology, which had never been approved prior to the pandemic, and both are two-dose regimens.
The US, which has recorded more than 17 million cases of the virus, will probably become the first country to approve the Moderna vaccine.
VP Pence receives vaccine at White House
US Vice President Mike Pence received a Covid-19 jab on live television Friday as the country prepared to green light its second vaccine in a boost to the planet's unprecedented immunization campaign.
Pence's move comes as inoculation efforts are unfurling around the world in the race to halt a pandemic that has claimed at least 1.66 million lives and infected more than 74 million people.
Yet in hard-hit Europe — which is yet to approve a vaccine — unease was mounting after Slovakia's 47-year-old Prime Minister Igor Matovic tested positive Friday for Covid-19 a week after attending an EU summit in Brussels.
The summit is believed to be where French President Emmanuel Macron caught the virus, an announcement a day earlier that led a host of European leaders and top French officials to rush into self-isolation.
Elsewhere, world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are pledging to get public injections like Pence in order to boost faith in the jabs.
"Building confidence in the vaccine is what brings us here this morning," Pence said after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTeh shot at the White House with his wife.
"I didn't feel a thing."
The event capped the US's first week of a mass vaccination program with the Pfizer/BioNtech jab against a virus that has killed more than 300,000 Americans.
Another vaccine, made by Moderna, is now expected to become the second shot allowed in a Western country after a panel of US experts recommended emergency use approval.
President Donald Trump — notably absent from Pence's vaccine event — has frequently downplayed the seriousness of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic.
But he has been eager to take credit for record-fast vaccine breakthroughs.
He sparked some confusion Friday by jumping the gun to declare Moderna approved, ahead of the final verdict from the Food and Drug Administration expected later in the day.