As many states struggle to administer COVID-19 vaccines to an impatient public and the U.S. death toll ticks higher, a former Biden transition advisor predicted a timeframe for when Americans at lower risk will be able to get their shots.
“We’re looking at probably middle of the summer, end of the summer before the average, healthy, young American has access to vaccination,” Céline Gounder, a New York University infectious-disease expert who sat on President Biden’s recently dissolved COVID-19 advisory board, told CNN on Sunday night.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that while supply is limited, health-care workers and long-term-care facility residents be offered initial vaccine doses, followed by frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older.
The agency’s next suggested phases include people aged 65 to 74, people aged 16 to 64 with underlying conditions that put them at greater risk for COVID-19 complications, and other essential workers not included in previous phases. But beyond the first-priority group, many states have deviated from the CDC’s recommendations, one recent analysis showed.
As for the general public, Sandra Albrecht, a Columbia University assistant professor of epidemiology and chief epidemiologist for the science-communication project Dear Pandemic, previously told MarketWatch that “the earliest will likely be in the spring, but more likely over the summer.”
And Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert and now Biden’s chief medical adviser, told NPR on Jan. 7 he expected “by the time we get to April, it will be what we call open season on vaccines,” meaning everyone would be able to get one.
“I think by the end of the summer, if we get 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated and get a good herd immunity, I think by the fall we could start to approach some form of normality,” he said.
‘We need more vaccine. We need more vaccinators. We need more vaccination sites.’
Biden has set a target of administering 100 million doses of the two-shot Pfizer
vaccines within his first 100 days — a goal critics have alternately suggested is too ambitious and not ambitious enough.
Fauci told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that even though the nation had already administered a million daily doses on some days, “that has been predominantly in areas that are relatively easy from the standpoint of getting it done in a nursing home or in a situation in a hospital setting.”
“I think there is this misperception out there … [that] because we’ve hit one million a day for a couple of days that when we get out into the community, it’s going to be really easy to do that,” he said. “That’s not the case. It is going to be a challenge. I think it was a reasonable goal that was set.”
About 41.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been distributed to states as of Sunday morning, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker, and 21.8 million doses had been administered. Some 18.5 million people have received one or more doses, while 3.2 million people have received two doses.
Close to 2.6 million doses have been administered in long-term-care facilities in a federal pharmacy partnership, a subset of the overall numbers.
Why the substantial gap between vaccine doses distributed and actually administered? “We need more vaccine. We need more vaccinators. We need more vaccination sites,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain told “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
The Biden administration will work with states to tackle the problem, Klain said, but also set up federal vaccination centers to help fill gaps in states without enough vaccination sites, as well as work alongside vaccine manufacturers to ramp up production.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky, meanwhile, said in a “Fox News Sunday” interview that supply of vaccine doses would likely be the greatest constraint early on — and that she hoped production would scale up “dramatically” by the end of March.
“We’re really hoping that after that first 100 days we’ll have much more production, not just for these two vaccines, but we are hopeful that we’ll have another one from Johnson & Johnson
in the weeks ahead and perhaps even a fourth coming down the pipeline,” Walensky said. “So we are really hoping that we’ll have more vaccines and that will increase the pace at which we can do the vaccinations.”