The US could have two more COVID-19 vaccines “within weeks, not months,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News on Sunday.
Fauci predicted that drugmakers AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson would submit their data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “within a period of a week or so,” provided the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, an independent board of experts, give the go-ahead.
Moncef Slaoui, the outgoing chief advisor to President Donald Trump’s vaccine initiative Operation Warp Speed, said in December that the vaccine developers could seek FDA approval by February, with rollout in April. Johnson & Johnson have said that it is on track for March rollout.
The FDA has already given the green light to two COVID-19 vaccines, one from Pfizer and BioNTech, and one from Moderna. More than 12 million shots have been given to Americans so far, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The AstraZeneca shot is a two-dose shot, like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, and has already been approved in the UK, where 82-year-old Brian Pinker was the first in the world to receive the vaccine outside of a trial on January 4.
Johnson & Johnson’s shot is one-dose only. Early data has shown that it could help protect against COVID-19, but it’s not clear how good it is, or how it compares to other vaccines, because large clinical trials are still ongoing.
Fauci, who is set to become President-elect Joe Biden’s chief science adviser, said that the incoming administration would use “whatever mechanisms we can” to reach Biden’s goal of 100 million doses in 100 days.
“[It] is absolutely a do-able thing,” said Fauci.
Fauci recommended Americans double down on public health measures while they wait for a vaccine, especially because new coronavirus variants, such as the one first identified in the UK but now found in 55 countries including the US, are probably more contagious.
“Be very compulsive, as the president-elect says, at least for the first 100 days and maybe more, everybody wear a mask, keep the distance, avoid congregate settings.”
This is because a more contagious variant could lead to more deaths.
“Just by numbers alone, the more cases you have, the more hospitalizations you have and the more hospitalizations you have the more deaths you have,” Fauci said.
So far, the virus has killed more than 397,000 Americans, and 2.03 million people worldwide, per Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci urged people to get immunized to protect them from the disease.
“If there was ever a clarion call for people to put aside vaccine hesitancy, if we can get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we’d be in very good shape,” he said.