Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine ready to ship pending FDA approval -U.S. health chief

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks before watching COVID-19 vaccines being administered to hospital workers at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., U.S. December 14, 2020. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday said nearly 6 million doses of Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) experimental COVID-19 vaccine were poised to ship nationwide as soon as it secures Food and Drug Administration approval.

Azar, in an interview on CNBC, said federal health officials had allotted 5.9 million doses to send to the nation's governors, who are managing each state's distribution.

"We're ready to start shipping this weekend to them for rollout Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week. We're ready to go," he said.

An FDA panel of outside advisers is weighing the safety and effectiveness of Moderna's vaccine candidate at a meeting on Thursday. The agency will weigh the committee's conclusions in making its approval decision. read more

FDA's advisers last week backed a separate COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and German partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE), that the FDA then approved for emergency use. That vaccine shipped out last weekend with the first doses going to U.S. healthcare workers on Monday.

U.S. healthcare experts have cited vaccines as a major step in seeking to curb the novel coronavirus that has already ravaged the country with 307,767 deaths and nearly 17 million cases so far this year. read more

Reporting by Susan Heavey Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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