Washington — Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said Sunday that the number of vaccine doses available will sharply rise in the coming weeks following federal approval of a third coronavirus vaccine.
"We need to gradually pull back [on restrictions] as we get more people vaccinated, and that is happening every single day, more and more people, and particularly as we get more doses, which are going to be dramatically increased as we get into April and May," Fauci said on "Face the Nation" of scaling back mitigation measures.
The Food and Drug Administration has now authorized three COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use, with the most recent, Johnson & Johnson's single-dose shot, receiving the green light last week.
The U.S. is now administering at least 2 million shots each day, and 87.9 million doses have been given, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mr. Biden has predicted that by the end of May, there will be enough vaccine supply to cover all adults, while Fauci said high school students likely will be able to receive their vaccines by the fall term and elementary school students by the first quarter of 2022.
Fauci said that as the vaccine supply increases, the federal government will "have to put a big push to get it into people's arms."
"But by that time, we're going to be doing much, much better," he said. "We're going to have community vaccine centers, vaccine in pharmacies."
While the number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. has sharply declined over the last few weeks, public health officials warn the nation has hit a plateau of between 60,000 and 70,000 new infections per day, which Fauci said is "not an acceptable level."
That leveling-off comes as some states like Texas and Mississippi have begun to lift mask mandates and loosen other restrictions designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus against the guidance of federal public health officials.
Fauci said the nation is "going in the right direction," but stressed that mitigation measures should be rolled back slowly and carefully as more Americans are inoculated.
"Don't turn that switch on and off because it really would be risky to have yet again another surge, which we do not want to happen because we're plateauing at quite a high level," he said.
While the number of Americans who have received their shots continues to grow, the Biden administration has yet to release guidance on activities for those who have been fully vaccinated.
But Fauci said those guidelines from the CDC should come out "imminently," within the next few days.
"Every day that goes by that we keep the lid on things will get better and better because we're putting now at 2 million vaccinations into the arms of individuals each day, and as the days and weeks go by, you have more and more protection, not only of individuals, but of the community," he said. "So we're going in the right direction. We just need to hang in there a bit longer."