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Most Americans Probably Won't Be Able To Get Coronavirus Vaccine Until Mid-2021, CDC Director Says

(CNN) -- Anyone thinking a vaccine will quickly end the coronavirus pandemic shouldn't get their hopes up. Instead, they should wear a mask -- which is probably even more effective, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

While a "very limited supply" of a Covid-19 vaccine might be ready in November or December, it "will have to be prioritized," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate appropriations subcommittee Wednesday.

"It will be those first responders and those at greatest risk for death, and then eventually that will expand," he said.

"If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third, late second quarter, third quarter 2021."

Related: Federal Government Outlines Plan To Make Coronavirus Vaccine Free To All

On top of that, "in order to have enough of us immunized so we have immunity, I think it's going to take us six to nine months," he said.

But he said Americans already have a weapon he believes could be more effective against Covid-19: face masks.

"These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have," Redfield said, holding up a blue face mask.

"If we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control," he said.

"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%. And if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will."

Yet time and again, people gather and socialize without wearing face masks -- sometimes leading to tragic results.

More than 6.6 million people have been infected with Covid-19 in the US, and more than 196,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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