US Vice President Mike Pence has received his Covid-19 vaccine live on television, seeking to shore up public support for vaccinations as US regulators were on the cusp of approving a second vaccine for emergency use.
Mr Pence said he "didn't feel a thing" after he, his wife Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams each rolled up their sleeves and took injections from white-coated medical staff, becoming the highest-profile recipients to receive the vaccine publicly.
After US deaths from the coronavirus topped 3,000 for a third straight day, Mr Pence called the vaccinations a sign of hope, with 20 million doses expected to be distributed nationwide before the end of December and hundreds of millions more going out in the first half of 2021.
"I also believe that history will record that this week was the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic, but with cases rising across the country, hospitalisations rising across the country, we have a ways to go," said Mr Pence, leader of the White House coronavirus task force.
US hospitalisations have set records on each of the past 20 days, approaching 114,000 yesterday, according to a Reuters tally.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, also received the vaccine today.
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She shared photos of the innoculation on Twitter, writing that she decided to have the jab due to "confidence in science".
Health experts have warned of a deepening crisis this winter as intensive care units fill up and hospital beds spill over into hallways.
The United States reported a record 239,903 new cases yesterday, when the US death toll surpassed 311,000.
Today, with confidence in science & at the direction of the Office of the Attending Physician, I received the COVID-19 vaccine. As the vaccine is being distributed, we must all continue mask wearing, social distancing & other science-based steps to save lives & crush the virus. pic.twitter.com/tijVCSnJd7— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 18, 2020
The Pences and Dr Adams were injected with the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE, which was approved last week.
A second vaccine, from Moderna Inc, is expected to win regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration today, Mr Pence said.
Those vaccines require two doses, given three or four weeks apart, while others under development may require only a single dose.
All have been developed with unprecedented speed in less than a year, thanks to technological advances and the urgency of the global pandemic.
Beyond the logistical challenge of the most ambitious vaccination campaign in decades, health officials must convince a sceptical public they are safe and effective.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found only 61% of Americans were open to getting vaccinated.
Mr Pence and Dr Adams being vaccinated publicly "is symbolic to tell the rest of the country the time is now to step to the plate, and when your time comes, to get vaccinated," said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Frontline healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents have been given priority, but a parade of high-profile jabs could soon follow.
Dr Fauci, who still sees patients, has said he might receive the vaccine within days.
Former presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have volunteered for public inoculations, and President-elect Joe Biden, who is due to take office on 20 January, will get his next week, his aides said.
While departing President Donald Trump has yet to embrace messages about social distancing and mask-wearing, he has encouraged people to get vaccinated and championed his administration's Operation Warp Speed programme to promote the development and distribution of vaccines.
But Mr Trump, who survived a bout with Covid-19 a few weeks before losing the 3 November election to Mr Biden, has yet to announce his plans for getting a shot.