WASHINGTON - Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. has picked up considerably and predicted that by April it will be virtually "open season" for everyone to start getting the shot.
Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview on NBC’s "Today" show that rate of vaccinations has picked up steam compared to just a month ago. He anticipates the pace of vaccinations to only further increase over the next two months.
"As we get into March and April, the number of available doses will allow for much more of a mass vaccination approach, which is really much more accelerated than what you’re seeing now," Fauci said, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden.
He credits the forthcoming shipments from two approved vaccines in the U.S. by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as well as a potential third vaccine. Last week, Johnson & Johnson asked U.S. regulators to authorize its one-dose vaccine. If approved, the pharmaceutical giant said it expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June.
Biden’s administration has also freed up more doses for states and is distributing doses to some 6,500 pharmacies across the country beginning this week.
Fauci said pharmacies, community vaccine centers and mobile units will help in picking up the pace of vaccinations for priority groups in the country, clearing the way for the rest of America to have access to the shot.
"If you look at the projection, I would imagine by the time we get to April, that will be what I would call for better wording ‘open season,’ namely that virtually everybody and anybody, in any category, could start to get vaccinated," he said. "From then on, it would likely take several more months just logistically to get vaccine into people’s arms."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with Lafayette Councilmember Cameron Burks.
Fauci added that by continuing this accelerated pace, officials hope "the overwhelming majority of people in this country" could be vaccinated by the middle to end of the summer.
The U.S. is facing a renewed urgency to speed up vaccinations amid the spread of potentially more serious strains of the virus, which has killed more than 470,000 Americans.
A recent study found the highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K., known as B.1.1.7, is spreading rapidly across the U.S., doubling roughly every 10 days. The findings bolster a forecast published last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that warned of the variant becoming dominant in the country by March. Researchers of the new study warned of a surge of potential new cases and deaths without "immediate and decisive action."
Fauci called its rapid spread "sobering news," but pointed to promising research on the effectiveness of the current COVID-19 vaccines against the U.K. variant. He called on Americans to continue public health measures, such as wearing a mask and social distancing, in tandem with making sure the country is quickly vaccinating as many people as possible.
"If we do those two things, as serious as we take this variant, we will be able to meet this challenge," he said.
Fauci has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and has now served under seven presidents.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.