CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Thursday that there will probably be more COVID-19 deaths each day in the U.S. for the next two to three months than there were deaths during the bombing of Pearl Harbor or on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“We are in the timeframe now that probably for the next 60 to 90 days we’re going to have more deaths per day than we had at 9/11 or we had at Pearl Harbor,” Redfield said in a Council on Foreign Relations event on Thursday, reports The Hill.
Approximately 2,400 people died in the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and nearly 3,000 people perished in the September 11 attacks. According to data from The New York Times, 3,157 people in the United States died of COVID-19 on Wednesday, December 9.
If, over the next three months, the U.S. averaged 2,700 deaths per day — the middle range in Dr. Redfield’s assessment — the U.S. would add 243,000 deaths to the COVID-19 death total by March 10. So far, 292,000 people have died, meaning that Dr. Redfield’s assessment puts the mid-March U.S. death toll in the range of about 535,000 people.
The CDC director’s grim prediction comes as the Food and Drug Administration appears to be on the verge of approving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, a two-dose inoculation the FDA recently confirmed had a 95% efficacy rate in protecting clinical trial recipients.
During an FDA advisory committee meeting on Thursday, independent advisors voted 17-4 in favor of recommending that the FDA approve the COVID-19 vaccine as an emergency measure. Two of the advisors have since said publicly that they voted “no” because the language of the recommendation included 16- and 17-year-olds, an age group for which they wanted more data. Those two said they supported it for adults.
“This meeting is an important step in the review process, providing an opportunity for outside experts to provide valuable advice and input for the agency to consider as part of its review,” the FDA said Thursday. “Importantly, the final decision about whether to authorize the vaccine for emergency use will be made by FDA’s career officials.”
The New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reports that the FDA could approve an emergency authorization for the vaccine by the weekend. The Washington Post offers an even higher degree of optimism for a looming COVID-19 vaccine approval, reporting on Thursday afternoon that vaccine approval could come within days.
Both Canada and the United Kingdom, which have some pre-purchase commitments with Pfizer, have already approved the vaccine for the public as an emergency measure. The United States, on the other hand, has pre-purchased 100 million doses of the company’s vaccine, enough for 50 million people. The CDC expects Pfizer to have 25 million doses of its vaccine for the United State available by the end of December, and another 15 million doses of the Moderna vaccine — a similar vaccine that is pending emergency authorization as well — should it also be approved, reports Stat News.