US Marshals Will Protect Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccines as They Travel Across Country During Rollout

Vaccine doses could begin arriving as early as next week, officials said.Getty

U.S. Marshals will protect doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine as they travel across the country during rollout, the agency announced.

The U.S. Marshals Service will provide protection for the coronavirus vaccine as it travels across the country, the agency announced. The security measures come as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to announce an emergency authorization to Pfizer's vaccine, which began distribution in Britain earlier this week.

A FDA advisory panel on Thursday formally recommended the federal agency approve Pfizer's COVID-19  injections. If that happens, first doses could be administered in the U.S. within days, CBS News reported. 

"Deputy Marshals are working hand-in-hand with Operation Warp Speed personnel to provide security for COVID-19 vaccines from the facilities where they are manufactured to distribution sites," the U.S. Marshals said in a statement.

Deputies will be stationed at numerous distribution points to guard stockpiles, manufacturers and transporters. The Marshals Service is responsible for disseminating medical materials during crises.  

Health care workers and residents of nursing homes are among those first in line for Pfizer's vaccine, which FDA scientists said earlier this week is up to 95% effective against the novel coronavirus after two doses. Those experts said the vaccine is effective no matter the person's race, age, or weight, CBS News reported.

There are no major side-effects, though recipients may experience fever, fatigue and muscle aches, authorities said. People with a history of "significant" allergic reactions to vaccines, medicine, or food should not receive Pfizer's vaccine, British health officials cautioned on Wednesday. 

Seventeen of the FDA's advisory panel's 22 members, or 77%, voted in favor of emergency authorization for people 16 and older, The New York Times reported. Four did not vote in favor of the authorization, and one member abstained from voting. The panel consisted of infectious disease doctors and statisticians. 

It is rare that the FDA not follow the advice of its advisory panels, but the FDA is not required to follow the panel's advice. "It is important to remember that the advisory committee is just that — it gives a recommendation to the FDA. It is nonbinding," Stephen Hahn, the agency's commissioner, told "CBS This Morning."

"After we receive recommendations, we will incorporate that into our decision. We hope shortly thereafter, once we have the recommendations, we can make our own decision," Hahn said. 

COVID-19 continues to surge across the U.S., which on Wednesday reached a grim milestone as it recorded the most deaths— 3,000— in a single day, and shows no signs of slowing. Intensive care units across the country are nearing capacity. Nearly 300,000 Americans have died and more than 15 million people have been sickened from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.