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Dr. Fauci revealed how long you’ll have to wait for a coronavirus vaccine

Published Dec 1st, 2020 7:31AM EST
Image: terovesalainen/Adobe

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  • The first coronavirus vaccines are expected to receive emergency approval this month, including the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna drugs.
  • Not every individual who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will get one in December. At-risk categories, including healthcare workers, other essential personnel, and the elderly, will have priority.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci explained that anyone else who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by April, if not sooner, as more supply comes in.

Moderna is the second coronavirus vaccine maker to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) after Pfizer/BioNTech. The company released final results for its Phase 3 clinical trial, saying that a review meeting might be scheduled for December 17th, a few days after the Pfizer vaccine will get its own evaluation. The two vaccines have shown high efficacy in the final stage of the trial, and they will probably be approved for emergency use this month. At that point, both drugs could start shipping to states. The first Americans who qualify for the initial stage of vaccine rollout will be inoculated. Millions of people might get a COVID-19 vaccine in December and January, but the available supply will be significantly below the demand. Both vaccines require two shots a few weeks apart, so the vaccine regimen will also impact the initial supply.

That’s why only certain categories of at-risk people will be vaccinated initially, including healthcare personnel, other essential workers, and the elderly. People who want a vaccine but don’t qualify will have to wait a few months longer, and Dr. Anthony Fauci knows exactly what sort of wait you should expect.

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“So right now, the federal government is contracted with multiple companies to make about 600 million doses of vaccine, which would be good enough for around 300 million people getting vaccinated — hence, everyone that you would imagine that would want to get vaccinated in the country would have a vaccine,” Fauci told Mark Zuckerberg in a live interview, via People.

“And as we get into January, the next tier. And February, then March,” he said. “By the time we get to April, we would likely have taken care of all the high priority and then the general population — the normal, healthy young man or woman, 30 years old that has no underlying conditions — can walk into a CVS or to a Walgreens and get vaccinated.”

“I would think as we get to April and May that we likely would have, for those who want to get vaccinated, the overwhelming majority of the people that want to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director also acknowledges the major problem that could hinder the vaccination-based herd immunity project. Some people are still unwilling to get a COVID-19 vaccine, as they’re worried about the development speed. Rampant fake news campaigns that target vaccines exist on social media. On top of that, there’s a category of people who refuses any vaccination, not just coronavirus drugs.

“What you really want is what we have: a highly efficacious vaccine — but you also want 75 to 85 percent of the people to get vaccinated,” Fauci said. He explained that if enough people get the vaccine, then “by the end of the second quarter of the year you could have enough protection to this country that the pandemic as we know it will be well, well suppressed, below the danger point.”

Fauci also told people to refrain from hosting regular holiday celebrations this year. “If I recommend one thing [for the holiday season], it’s that we diminish, to the extent possible, travel — and keep gatherings indoor to the immediate family unit,” the NIAID expert said. Otherwise, the US will continue to risk new COVID-19 surges, even if vaccines are already rolling out.

“That seems to be, unfortunately, the antithesis of the Christmas, the New Year, the Hanukkah season, because you really want to bring friends around the fireplace, people sitting down together,” Fauci said. “Unfortunately, that’s the perfect setup for people who may have no symptoms, and innocently and inadvertently come into the home and infect someone.”

He made the same points before Thanksgiving, urging people not to travel for the holiday. The US still registered record travel numbers in the days leading to Thanksgiving. Fauci warned in interviews that followed that the US is bracing for a “surge upon a surge.” The effect of Thanksgiving might be seen two to three weeks after that.

The US has been breaking record after record in November. The number of daily cases topped 200,000 on Friday, and the entire month of November totaled the highest number of COVID-19 diagnoses in the pandemic so far. Hospitalizations are at record highs, and the number of daily deaths is increasing.

Zuckerberg’s full chat with Fauci follows below.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.