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Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine finally reaches its last step: FDA committee vote.

A committee crucial for clearing a COVID-19 vaccine will hold an all-day meeting Thursday, and depending on how it votes, the nation's first doses could ship as early as Friday. The external expert committee will review data from Pfizer and German startup BioNTech on their vaccine, called BNT162b2, and by day's end will vote whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should authorize the country’s first COVID-19 vaccine.

The companies are requesting an “emergency use authorization,” shy of a full approval. While they have compiled as much short-term safety and effectiveness data as is typical with any vaccine, the process has been compressed. But corners, FDA says, have not been cut. If the independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommends that authorization, the FDA is expected to sign off on the vaccine, possibly as soon as late Thursday.

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