Dec 1 (Reuters) — Healthcare workers and others recommended for the first COVID-19 inoculations could start getting shots within 24 hours after the vaccine receives regulatory authorization, the chief adviser for the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed program said on Tuesday.

Moncef Slaoui, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive overseeing the vaccine portion of the U.S. program, said he hopes 20 million people will have been vaccinated by the end of this year.

"Within 24 hours, maybe at most 36 to 48 hours, from the approval, the vaccine can be in people's arms," Slaoui said at an event conducted by The Washington Post.

Slaoui said practice shipping runs - without vaccines - have been conducted to prepare for initial distribution expected to begin in mid-December once Pfizer Inc receives an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine.

Pfizer applied for the EUA on Nov. 20 after publishing data that showed the vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech SE was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19.

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A committee of outside expert advisers is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss the data and make a recommendation to the FDA on whether to grant authorization. The agency typically follows the advice of these expert committees.

States will be in charge of distributing vaccines to their populations. Slaoui said the federal government will ship doses to the locations identified in state plans.

The United States should have 60 million to 70 million doses a month by January, between both the Pfizer and Moderna Inc vaccines, Slaoui said. Moderna's vaccine, which was about equally effective, will be reviewed by the expert panel a week after Pfizer's.

Both vaccines require patients to receive two doses about a month apart. (Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru and Rebecca Spalding in New York; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)