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The United States has added a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal, fueling efforts to combat an outbreak so dire that the nation regularly records more than 3,000 deaths a day.
Much-needed doses are scheduled to arrive on Monday after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an emergency launch of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The move marks the world’s first clearance for Moderna shots. The vaccine is very similar to one from Germany’s Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech that is now being distributed to millions of healthcare workers and nursing home residents as the largest vaccination campaign in US history begins to ramp up. USA

Modern COVID-19 vaccine has received emergency clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration. (AP)

Previously, US Vice President Mike Pence and other top officials and politicians received injections of the Pfizer vaccine at a live television event.

The FDA made its announcement on Twitter, following the recommendation of its Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics on Thursday.

“The emergency use authorization allows the vaccine to be distributed in the US for use in persons 18 years of age and older,” the FDA tweeted.

“The FDA has determined that the # COVID19 vaccine has met the legal criteria for US issuance. The totality of the available data provides clear evidence that it may be effective in preventing # COVID19.”

The two vaccines work “better than we almost dared hope,” NIH director Dr. Francis Collins told The Associated Press. “Science is working here, science has done an amazing thing.”

The first results of large studies, still unfinished, show that both vaccines appear safe and strongly protective, although Moderna is easier to handle since it does not need to be stored at deep-frozen temperatures.

A second vaccine represents a glimmer of hope amid despair as the virus continues to spread unabated even before the holiday gatherings that are sure to further fuel the outbreak.

The scourge has claimed more than 312,000 Americans. lives and killed 1.7 million people worldwide. New cases in the US are running at more than 216,000 per day on average. Deaths per day have reached record highs, dwarfing 3,600 on Wednesday.

US Vice President Mike Pence receives Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine at a live television event. (AP)

California has become one of the deadliest hot spots, with hospitals running out of intensive care beds and ambulances queuing outside emergency rooms in scenes reminiscent of the calamity in New York City last spring in the North. California reported more than 41,000 new cases and 300 more deaths on Friday.

When New York hospitals were in crisis, healthcare workers from across the country came to help. This time around, “the cavalry is not coming” because many hospitals are crowded, said Dr. Marc Futernick, a Los Angeles emergency room physician.

The nation is struggling to expand vaccines as fast as Moderna and Pfizer can produce doses. Moderna’s is for people over 18, Pfizer’s starts at 16.

Moderna expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses available globally in the first three months of 2021, with 85-100 million of those available in the US.

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