İrem UZUN -TDO- The first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use in the United States headed Sunday from Michigan to distribution centers across the country, with the first shots expected to be given in the coming week to health care workers and at nursing homes.  Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine will set in motion the biggest vaccination effort in American history at a critical juncture of the pandemic.

Initially, about 3 million doses were expected to be sent out, and the priority is health care workers and nursing home residents as infections, hospitalizations and deaths soar in the U.S. With numbers likely to get worse over the holidays, the vaccine is offering a bright spot in the fight against the pandemic that’s killed nearly 300,000 Americans.  Federal officials say the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. The vaccine, co-developed by German partner BioNTech, is being doled out based on each state’s adult population.

The U.S. plans to distribute 40 million vaccine doses by the end of the year, followed by 50 to 80 million doses in January and in February, according to Moncef Slaoui, the head of the U.S.'s coronavirus vaccine efforts. "All in all, we hope to have immunized 100 million people" by the end of the first quarter of 2021, Slaoui told Fox News.

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