On the heels of Pfizer's surprising announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine could be 90% effective based on early and incomplete test results, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the secretary of Health and Human Services said they believe a vaccine will be available to average Americans by next spring.
Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, now is on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, once it has the necessary safety information in hand.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that most people who were skeptical of a vaccine might wait until mid-to-late 2021 to get it. But he said the Pfizer announcement could change some minds.
“I believe the incentive to get vaccinated will be greatly enhanced by the degree of efficacy," Fauci said. "When you hear something is 90 to 95% effective, it makes it much more likely that someone would want to get vaccinated."
HHS Secretary Alex Azar stated a similar timeline Tuesday speaking to NBC News. He also said the vaccine could roll out to most vulnerable Americans by the end of the year to early January. The initial focus would be on nursing home residents, health care workers and first responders.
The U.S. has surpassed 1 million new confirmed coronavirus cases in just the first 10 days of November, with more than 100,000 infections each day becoming the norm in a surge that shows no signs of slowing.
The alarming wave of cases across the U.S. looks bigger and is more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring, mainly in the Northeast, and then in the summer, primarily in the Sun Belt. But experts say there are also reasons to think the nation is better able to deal with the virus this time around.
Doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive. Patients have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Also, testing is more widely available.