FDA committee recommends Pfizer vaccine, clearing way for emergency use authorization

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has voted to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, all but clearing the way for landmark approval in a months-long effort to turn the tide of the pandemic.

The decision came as expected Thursday in a 17-4 vote from the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. One committee member abstained. While the agency does not have to follow the committee’s vote, it is fully expected officials will do and fast track the vaccine for distribution with emergency use authorization.

Does of the vaccine could be shipped within days, depending how soon the FDA signs off on the committee's recommendation.

For the Pfizer vaccine in particular, major distribution hurdles await.

The doses must be stores in unbelievably cold temperatures at around -70°C to remain active. To do so, Pfizer has developed its own thermal shippers that can safely store vaccine on the way to its destination. Other vaccines, like one developed by Moderna, only require storage at a regular freezer temperature to maintain effectiveness.

The FDA's approval comes at a time that new cases continue to surge around the country following holiday gatherings against state recommendations.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.