KALAMAZOO, Michigan -- The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States are headed from Michigan to distribution centers across the country.
The first round of the Pfizer vaccine will be given this week to health care workers and at nursing homes.
The shipments Sunday morning set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history.
The shots that are critical to stopping the nation’s coronavirus outbreak are destined to reach states a day later.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the vaccine Friday, saying it is highly protective and presents no major safety issues.
US leads world with 16 million cases of virus
The U.S. has recorded more than 16 million cases of COVID-19, by far the most of any country in the world, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Cases of the virus have been rising across much of the U.S., causing record death totals in recent days.
India and Brazil are the only two other countries that have reported more than 3 million cases of COVID-19. Globally, more than 71 million cases have been confirmed. The actual number of cases is believed to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms.
The U.S. also leads the world in deaths related to the coronavirus at more than 297,600, including a record 3,309 recorded on Friday.
The increases come as millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer start rolling into U.S. hospitals on Monday. The first vaccines will go to hospital staff and other health care professionals.
The coronavirus has caused more than 1.6 million global deaths.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.