Rising death toll tempers U.S. enthusiasm over coming COVID vaccine

Dec 11 (Reuters) - A mounting U.S. death toll has tempered enthusiasm about the coming COVID-19 vaccine with 9/11-like fatalities projected every day for the months ahead, even with a rapid rollout of inoculations, which could start as soon as Monday.

Another 2,902 U.S. deaths were reported on Thursday, a day after a record 3,253 people died, a pace projected to continue for the next two to three months until the vaccine can be widely distributed.

Those daily tolls are roughly equivalent to the 2,996 killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and greater than the 2,403 killed in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor - traumatic events that reshaped the United States for years.

“Probably for the next 60 to 90 days, we’re going to have more deaths per day than we had on 9/11 or we had at Pearl Harbor,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.

“The reality is the vaccine approval this week is not going to really impact that, I think, to any degree for the next 60 days,” Redfield said.

The United States moved closer to a vaccine on Thursday when a panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted overwhelmingly to endorse emergency use of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer with its German partner BioNTech.

The FDA said on Friday it would work rapidly toward authorization.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC News that people could start getting vaccinated as soon as Monday or Tuesday.

Britain and Canada have already approved the Pfizer vaccine, and the U.S. advisory panel is due to review a second vaccine, from Moderna Inc, next week.

Healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents are expected to receive the first doses, but a wider rollout faces significant logistical challenges to meet President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of inoculating 100 million people within 100 days of his inauguration on Jan. 20.

“It’s not going to be like a light switch on and off,” said Dr. Mark Mulligan, director of the NYU Langone Health Vaccine Center and a lead investigator for the Pfizer trials. “It’s going to be more like a dimmer switch.”

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told CNN it would be several months before the nation sees widespread availability of vaccines.

To expedite delivery, United Parcel Service and FedEx Corp promised to give vaccine doses a higher priority than Christmas gifts.

Then there is the American skepticism about vaccines, with only 61% saying they are open to getting vaccinated, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Moreover, American women, who traditionally make most of the healthcare decisions in their families, are more wary than men as the survey showed 35% were “not very” or “not at all” interested in getting a vaccine.

Health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have said any vaccine approved by the FDA would be safe, but officials from around the world are closely watching Britain after two people suffered a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine known as anaphylaxis.

Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Zieminski