Fauci Says U.S. Covid Vaccine Pace Rising After Slow Start
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), right, before they receive the Moderna Inc. Covid-19 vaccine during an event at the NIH Clinical Center Masur Auditorium in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. (Photographer: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press/Bloomberg)

Fauci Says U.S. Covid Vaccine Pace Rising After Slow Start

The U.S. government’s top infectious-disease doctor said the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is picking up speed and could be fully on track within a week or so.

“It’s just trying to get a massive vaccine program started and getting off on the right foot. The important thing is to see what’s happening in the next week, to week and a half,” Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the initial vaccination program had been superimposed upon a surge of coronavirus cases, which has stressed health-care resources in many areas, and on the holiday season.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that in the past 72 hours, about 1.5 million vaccine doses have been administered, or about 500,000 per day, a substantial pickup in pace.

“We are not where we want to be, no doubt about that, but I think we can get there if we really accelerate,” he said on ABC.

Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus, has so far failed to meet projections for how quickly people will be inoculated. Two vaccines have been approved for use in the U.S.

Health Agencies Strained

Officials have blamed the inoculation delays on a delicate vaccine with complex storage requirements, uncertainty over the supply of doses and strain on local health agencies already facing historic challenges.

Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser on Operation Warp Speed, said the effort has been successful in transporting vaccines to locations, but states need to make “a specific ask” if they need help in getting the inoculation into people’s arms.

“We stand by to help with any specific request,” he said on CBS. “We have an agreement with CVS and Walgreens, and we are starting to ship vaccines to those locations as allocated by the states -- that is really the key point.”

Asked when there will be data on whether the virus is transmittable even after a person has received the first vaccine dose, Slaoui said the studies will be based on observation data, which won’t be available before late in the spring.

Multiple Stages

On NBC, Fauci noted the “multiple stages” involved, from allocation to staging and distribution, and finally getting shots into arms.

While the goal to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020 wasn’t achieved, that many doses should at least be shipped by the end of the first week in January, Fauci said.

About 4.28 million doses had been administrated by Jan. 2, according to the Bloomberg News vaccine tracker.

The number of U.S. cases has exceeded 20 million, with more than 1 million in New York state alone. U.S. deaths attributed to the coronavirus passed 350,000 on Saturday.

President Donald Trump on Sunday called cases and deaths in the U.S. “far exaggerated” in a tweet criticizing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The numbers are real,” Fauci said. “Those are real numbers, real people, and real deaths.” On CNN, Adams said he had “no reason to doubt those numbers.”

New York state on Saturday passed 1 million Covid-19 cases, after a somber year in which more than 30,000 of its residents died from the virus.

More than one-third of the state’s total cases were reported in December as cold weather nudged people indoors, holidays increased social gatherings and residents tired of restrictions.

“We need to double down on the things we talk about all the time,” notably wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding “congregate” settings, especially indoors, Fauci said on NBC.

The current jump in cases “was predictable” given travel and socializing over the holidays, he said.

Asked about the newer, more infectious Covid-19 strain that’s reached the U.S. and elsewhere in the world from the U.K., Fauci repeated his advice from the start of the pandemic: “The best way to counter this is to do the public health measures that prevent spread.”

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