Operation Warp Speed's chief science advisor, Moncef Slaoui, told CNBC that Americans can expect to get back to "normal" by the summer of 2021, as families in the United States are separating Thanksgiving this year to protect their loved ones.
"We hope we'll have 70% to 80% of the US population vaccinated by May or June 2021, and I hope we'll be essentially back to normal by summer," Slaoui told The News in an interview on Wednesday night with Shepard Smith ".
The coronavirus pandemic is sweeping through cities across the United States and data shows there are no signs of slowing down. According to the Covid Tracking Project, 88,000 people with Covid-19 were hospitalized on Tuesday. Deaths are also increasing. According to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data, the US reported more than 2,100 deaths on Tuesday, the most deaths since May.
However, doctors and scientists assure Americans that there will be a respite. Two weeks after Thanksgiving, the FDA will meet to discuss whether to give Pfizer's vaccine the go-ahead. In this case, the government plans to ship 6.4 million cans to communities across the country.
Slaoui said it was a "challenge" to vaccinate all Americans, but he thought it was achievable. "People need to know that between 140 and 180 million doses of flu vaccine are produced, distributed and vaccinated in the US population each year between August and perhaps January," Slaoui said. "We might double that number over time, but it's not from scratch, which is very different from the tests."
Host Shepard Smith noted that another challenge will be convincing people that a vaccine is safe. A recent Gallup poll found that only 58% of Americans said they were taking a coronavirus vaccine.
"It is a major concern and it is really very unfortunate that the political context in which the development of this vaccine took place exacerbates the hesitation and lack of confidence that stems from the fact that we went very quickly has, "said Slaoui.
Slaoui explained that scientists couldn't "start from a blank sheet of paper" and jumped off from 10 to 15 years of discovery and development that has been going on around the platform technologies in which the vaccines are made. He said that while it typically takes 6 to 7 years to discover a vaccine, much of the groundwork has already been done based on the past few years of research. Another factor that speeded up the process was the large number of participants in the clinical trials of Covid vaccines, Slaoui said.
"We will know more about these vaccines and their effectiveness and safety than the 'average' vaccines in a shorter amount of time," said Slaoui. "What we won't know very much is their long-term safety just because the experiments had to be done quickly and it is important that we immunize people. We have 2,000 people who die every day."
Slaoui said there is a thorough surveillance system in place to keep an eye on people once the population starts taking the vaccines. Slaoui added that if there were signs of long-term problems, those problems would be addressed "immediately".
"Please keep your ears open and your mind open, listen, and then assess the facts and data," said Slaoui. said. "I'm confident that if we do, most Americans will agree to vaccination. 95% effectiveness is insurance against this pandemic."