America may be able to reach herd immunity to coronavirus sometime around May, according to a timeline set by Operation Warp Speeds’ best science adviser.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui spoke with Jake Tapper during Sunday’s “State of the Union”, which addressed the timeline for the delivery of vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer – each awaiting approval.
An advisory panel will meet on December 10 to decide whether or not to approve the vaccines. Should the panel give approval, Slaoui said the government will move quickly to deliver the vaccines across the country.
“Our plan is to be able to send vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours of approval, so I might expect on day two after approval, December 11 or 12,” Slaoui said.
Asked how long it might take to reach herd immunity, potentially allowing a return to normalcy, Slaoui confirmed that Operation Warp Speed determined it could distribute up to 20 million vaccinations a month from December.
“Normally, with the level of efficiency we have – 95% -, about 70% of the population would be immunized allowing true herd immunity to take place,” Slaoui said. “It’s probably going to happen somewhere in the month of May, something similar based on our plans.”
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Operation Warp Speed takes its cues from state health departments to determine where the vaccines should go and who will receive vaccinations first.
Slaoui said the Center for Disease Control and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice would meet to issue guidelines on which states should prioritize vaccinations, but the final decision would be up to each state.
“But it is clear that people at the highest risk, frontline workers, important workers should be among the first,” Slaoui said.
The key, however, will be to shift public perception of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. A recent Gallup poll showed that only about 58% of people trust the vaccine enough to take it.
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“I really hope and look forward to seeing the level of negative perception that people have about the vaccine falling and the positive perception rising,” Slaoui said. “Most people need to be vaccinated before we can return to a normal life.”
In the ensuing Sunday morning appearance, Slaoui answered questions regarding the extradition between the Trump administration and the upcoming Biden administration, with President-elect Joe Biden set to announce key appointments in the coming week.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Slaoui confirmed that Operation Warp Speed has not yet had any contact with anyone on the Biden transition team.
Slaoui spoke with Chuck Todd about “Meet the Press” and stressed that Operation Warp Speed has been separated from “the political environment”, hoping there is no disruption during the transition.
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“My personal role, as you know, is that I have volunteered for this on a limited basis,” Slaoui said. “My personal agenda is that once we have approved two vaccines and two drugs approved, and the rest of the portfolio we have in good hands, I will probably move back into my privacy.”
“As you know, I have supported the program a lot, and if that means I want to work with the new administration, I will be very happy about it.”