Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Monday that COVID-19 will continue to disrupt lives unless an "overwhelming majority" take the vaccine. He also said Americans should get vaccinated if they want to be "part of the solution" to the pandemic.
During a Facebook live stream with the social media giant's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, called on the public to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it's available.
"So, if you want to be part of the solution, get vaccinated and say 'I'm not going to be one of the people that is going to be a stepping stone for the virus to go to somebody else, I'm going to be a dead end to the virus,'" Fauci said.
The remarks came as Lieutenant General Paul Ostrowski, the director of supply, production and distribution for Operation Warp Speed, told MSNBC that "100% of Americans that want the vaccine will have the vaccine" by June.
"We will have over 300 million doses available to the American public, well before [then]" said Ostrowski.
Similarly, Fauci expects the vaccine to be available for lower-priority members of the public who want to be vaccinated "as we get through April and May."
It remains to be seen how many people are willing to do so, however. The most recent polling by Gallup showed 58% of Americans would take the vaccine, a jump from 50% in September. But that poll was conducted in October, before vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer unveiled their last month.
Ideally, Fauci told Zuckerberg that he would want 75% to 85% of people to receive vaccinations in order to achieve herd immunity.
"If we get to that point, Mark...by the end of second quarter of the year you can have enough protection in this country that the pandemic as we know it will be well, well suppressed below the danger point."
If most people are vaccinated in the second quarter of 2021, the public could return to work and school later this year, Fauci said.
"So, when we get into the fall season, the children can feel safe going back to school, teachers can feel safe they are not going to get infected, we get back to the economy being robust, restaurants can open to full capacity — that's what I would like to see," he said.
"You are not going to see it unless the overwhelming majority of people get vaccinated," he added. "So, in that sense I would like to see the reluctant people get vaccinated sooner rather than later. If they want to wait a month or two, that's OK... but I don't want them to wait six to eight to nine months."
In the meantime, some 40 million doses ofare already being produced. As soon as the Food and Drug Administration approves, they will begin to ship around the country. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told if approved, vaccines could be available in the U.S. before Christmas, and that it would be governors who decide which segments of the population would be first in line to receive them.
The U.S. reported morein November than most countries had all year. Public health experts that the U.S. will keep seeing record-breaking numbers in the final month of 2020.