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Vaccine Czar: COVID-19 Immunizations Could Begin In Three Weeks

Herd immunity from virus would take place near May 2021
Moncef Slaoui, former executive at GlaxoSmithKline Plc, wears a protective mask while U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, speaks during an event at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, May 15, 2020. Trump officially introduced Slaoui and a four star-general who will lead his crash coronavirus vaccine effort, amid a whistle-blower's criticism that the administration lacked a plan to combat the outbreak. Photographer:
Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

America’s vaccine czar on Sunday said he thinks Americans could begin getting immunized from COVID-19 in about three weeks and that the country could reach herd immunity by next spring.

Moncef Slaoui, who oversees vaccine development for the White House, said on CNN that once a vaccine is approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all 50 states will be able to begin immunizations.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I would expect maybe on Day Two after approval,” Slaoui said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “On the 11th or the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states.”

In an exchange with host Jake Tapper, Slaoui said if things go as expected, the country can reach herd immunity by May 2021, which means the population can be protected from the virus after a threshold of vaccination is reached.

“You’ve said you plan to vaccinate 20 million people in the month of December in the United States and up to another 30 million per month after that. How many Americans need to be vaccinated for life to be able to return to normal, and when might that happen?” Tapper asked.

“So, normally, with the level of efficacy we have — 95% — 70% or so of the population being immunized would allow for true herd immunity to take place,” Slaoui said. “That is likely to happen somewhere in the month of May, or something like that based on our plans.”

Slaoui also said he’s hopeful that Americans will take the vaccine.

“I really hope and look forward to seeing that the level of negative perception of the vaccine decreases and people’s acceptance increases, that’s going to be critical to help us,” he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said he doesn’t trust a vaccine that comes during President Trump’s term. “You are going to say to the American people now, ‘Here’s a vaccine, it was new, it was done quickly, but trust this federal administration, their health administration that it’s safe, and we’re not 100% sure of the consequences,’ I think it’s going to be a very skeptical American public about taking the vaccine, and they should be,” the Democrat said last month.

Pfizer on Nov. 9 said results from its most recent human trials on its coronavirus vaccine show it is more than 90% effective, but on Tuesday, they said the vaccine is 95% effective. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that once their vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it will be shipped quickly to locations in the U.S.

And a new vaccine from drug maker Moderna — developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed — is also nearly 95% effective, but does not have to be kept at sub-zero temperatures like the Pfizer version, the company said Monday. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said 20 million doses will be available by the end of the year, Fox News reported.

“The two companies are working 24/7 preparing their files,” Slaoui said on ABC’s “This Week.” “As you know, Pfizer already filed yesterday. Moderna is planning to file by the end of this month. The FDA will review the files.”

“And, in parallel to that process, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [ACIP] will also review the data, so that when the FDA, on December 10, for Pfizer, and on December 17 for Moderna, reviews and gets the advice from its advisory committee of independent experts, and hopefully approves the vaccine, the CDC will almost immediately ask the ACIP for what recommendation and what guidance they would give to the population in terms of immunization priorities,” he said.

Slaoui also vouched for the safety of the vaccines.

“The vaccines have been developed as thoroughly and as scientifically as ever. I have been doing this for more than 30 years. This vaccine development is not different than any other, except that we have gone at an incredible fast speed with incredible resources and incredible commitment by all the parties,” he said.

“We know that these vaccines are highly effective. They are as safe in the short term as any other vaccine that’s already approved. We will be looking for the long term at their safety through very active pharmacovigilance. The CDC and the FDA are working together in setting that up to a level that’s almost close to a clinical trial,” Slaoui added.

“And I feel very comfortable that this vaccine, these vaccines are safe. I will be happy to take the vaccine. I will be happy to have my children have or my parents have the vaccine.”

Related: Cuomo Blasts Trump, Vaccine Makers For Rushing COVID Cure; White House Fires Back

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