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WATCH: Pence participates in COVID-19 vaccine roundtable

Vice President Mike Pence participated in a roundtable Dec. 10 about COVID-19 vaccines in Greenville, South Carolina.

As U.S. experts convene to decide whether to approve the Pfizer vaccine, Pence is calling the development of a vaccine to combat the coronavirus pandemic as “a medical miracle.”

Watch the roundtable in the video player above.

As U.S. experts convene to decide whether to approve the Pfizer vaccine, Vice President Mike Pence is calling the development of a vaccine to combat the coronavirus pandemic as “a medical miracle.”

Pence traveled to South Carolina Thursday to participate in a roundtable on the vaccine and plans for its distribution with Gov. Henry McMaster and other South Carolina leaders.

Touting the speed with which the vaccine has moved from development to entering the process of approval, Pence said, “We’re literally on track to have a safe and effective vaccine available for the American people between eight and 12 months.”

“That is unheard of,” Pence said.

Food and Drug Administration advisers are scrutinizing  Pfizer’s data for any red flags or oversights. If approved, shots could begin within days for health care workers and people in nursing homes.

“Twenty million Americans could be vaccinated just before the end of this month,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who traveled with Pence to the Palmetto State.

“In December, a total of 50 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of January.”

Pfizer developed its vaccine outside of the federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed,” but is partnering with the federal government on manufacturing and distribution.

“And people deserve to know that we are just a few short days away from what I believe will be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic in America,” Pence said.

“Literally within a few short days, we believe we will obtain the approval to begin to distribute and administer millions of doses of the vaccine,” he said.

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Under its contract with Pfizer, the Trump administration committed to buy an initial 100 million doses, with an option to purchase as much as five times more.

But this summer, the White House opted not to lock in an additional 100 million doses for delivery in the second quarter of 2021, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Trump used the event to sign an executive order in which the secretary of Health and Human Services is directed to ensure that Americans have priority access to the vaccine.

Concerns about the availability of the vaccines come as Trump signed an executive order to prioritize Americans for coronavirus vaccines procured by the federal government. A senior administration official said the order would restrict the government from delivering doses to other nations until there is excess supply to meet domestic demand, but it was not immediately clear what the practical impact would be.

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of outside vaccine experts is to meet Thursday to conduct a final review of the Pfizer drug, and it will meet later this month on the Moderna vaccine. The FDA is not required to follow the panel’s advice, though it usually does.

Meanwhile, U. S. lawmakers are trying to hammer out a COVID-19 relief bill.

That comes as US jobless claims jumped to 853,000 amid a resurgence of the virus.

More than 19 million people rely on some type of unemployment benefit. And unless Congress acts soon, nearly half will lose that aid in just over two weeks.