WASHINGTON - Two top U.S. coronavirus experts assured Americans Sunday that vaccines against the pandemic would soon become available but warned that not taking precautions against the spread of the virus before then could prove disastrous.
“We should have enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize 20 million Americans and we have to immunize for impact,” Admiral Brett Giroir, the White House virus testing chief, told CNN. “But the American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed."
Giroir described two prospective vaccines, which are now under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as “lifesaving,” saying, “This puts an end to the pandemic.”
But until then, he said, “The American people have to do the right things until we get that vaccine widely distributed, wear a mask, avoid indoor crowded spaces, all the things you know.”
Giroir said he believes there will be a “smooth, professional transition” in handling the vaccine distribution from the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump to that of President-elect Joe Biden when he is set to be inaugurated on January 20.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, speaking to ABC’s “This Week” show, said, “Help is on the way,” and that the initial supply of vaccines might be available by mid-December.
Fauci said health experts are “empathetic about the fatigue” of Americans being careful about becoming exposed to the virus. But he said wearing face masks and people physically distancing themselves from others “do make a difference.”
Millions of Americans curtailed their traditional family gatherings for last Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving holiday, yet millions of others ignored warnings from health care experts against traveling to visit far-flung relatives for fear of spreading the virus.
“I don’t see how we’re not going to have the same thing” happen with people traveling — and potentially spreading the virus — for Christmas visits with their families, Fauci said.
He said there is “a considerable risk” for people getting together.
Fauci called on state and municipal officials to “close the bars, keep the schools open,” to keep “the community level of spread low.”
“Let's try to get the kids back, and let's try to mitigate the things that maintain and just push the kind of community spread that we're trying to avoid,” Fauci said. “And those are the things that you know well – the bars, the restaurants where you have capacity seating indoors without masks.”
“Those are the things that drive the community spread — not the schools,” he said.
The assessments came as the United States topped 13 million confirmed cases on Friday, just six days after it reached 12 million cases. The highly contagious virus that causes the COVID-19 disease has killed more than 266,000 Americans, more than in any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
More than 91,000 infected individuals are currently hospitalized in the U.S., an all-time high, with more than 18,000 in intensive care units.