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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Roger Marshall (1st District of Kansas)

The coronavirus pandemic has forced hardships on everyone in one way or another. But as we close out 2020, we should look forward to the new year with hope and optimism. Time after time, American innovation has led the world in developing cures and breakthroughs in medicine, and COVID-19 vaccine development is no exception. With the work already accomplished in 2020 and the continued efforts of Operation Warp Speed, America will soon have safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available nationwide that will bring an end to this horrible virus.

Since February, I have been involved in pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the pharmaceutical industry to develop new vaccines and therapeutics. In March, the federal government initiated funding for the research, development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end. Today, we stand only days away from that promise becoming a reality. Three vaccine candidates have completed large-scale clinical trials and have shown a 90% or better efficacy rate in protecting patients from the virus. Development of more possible vaccines is underway.

Vaccine safety is every bit as important as effectiveness, and Operation Warp Speed has ensured safety — backed by data — throughout the entire process. Top scientists at the FDA, along with an advisory committee of independent physicians and researchers from across the country, will publicly review and audit the trial data before a vaccine is determined safe for public distribution. I fully expect that at least one vaccine will be granted emergency use authorization before Christmas.

The federal government has purchase agreements in place for more than 100 million doses of the vaccine, once it’s finally approved. The CDC and state governments have already identified those who will be first to receive it — including front-line health care providers and seniors 65 years old and older. Noting that more than 40% of deaths from COVID-19 occur in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, I remain hopeful that the 20 million doses we now have on hand will be distributed to these institutions in a matter of weeks.

In short order, the vaccine will become available to the general public across the broad network of health care settings, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, community health centers and hospitals. More good news? The federal government is working to ensure that anyone who wants a vaccine can get one free of charge. As with all vaccinations and medications, I encourage individuals to consult with their physicians for their recommendations. The vaccine cannot and will not be federally mandated.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. According to Operation Warp Speed senior officials, 70% of the American population could be vaccinated by May 2021. This percentage is sufficient to reach herd immunity and allow most Americans to safely return to normal life and everyday activities.

Bring on March Madness, our best friend’s wedding, coffee with co-workers and family gatherings. We have hope for the future, and American innovation continues to make it possible.