Moncef Slaoui, the scientific chief of Operation Warp Speed, said Sunday that the coronavirus pandemic will continue to drag on if most Americans don’t take the vaccine.
The first doses of the Pfizer vaccine are being shipped out across the country, but there is still significant doubt among the public about the vaccine.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Slaoui warned that it will take a large majority of the population — 75% to 80% — to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity, the level of vaccination among the general public where the virus has little chance of spreading.
“We hope to reach that point between the month of May and the month of June,” he said. “It is however critical that most of the American people decide and accept to take the vaccine. We are very concerned by the hesitancy that we see, the level of hesitancy that we see.”
“But we hope that now that all the data is out and available to be discussed in detail, that people will keep their mind open to listen to the data and hopefully agree that this is a very effective and safe vaccine, and therefore take it,” he said.
According to a recent poll by The Associated Press, 47% of American adults said they were willing to get the vaccine, with 26% saying they don’t plan on getting it at all.
Mr. Slaoui said officials aim to have about 40 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of December of both the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, and the Moderna vaccine. In January, their goal is to distribute 50 million to 80 million.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said he hopes the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be administered on Monday.
“My hope again is that this happens very expeditiously, hopefully tomorrow,” Dr. Hahn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, needs to approve the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendation before that can happen, but Dr. Hahn expects that to come soon.
“He is certainly on top of this and has a lot of confidence in the process particularly with ACIP, I’m sure we will be hearing very soon about this,” the FDA commissioner said.
Dr. Hahn said the FDA will continue to review the data for the Moderna vaccine and hopes to move forward “expeditiously.”
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