Could all Americans be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the summer of 2021?

Employees preparing COVID-19 vaccine
Photo via Baltimore County Government/Flickr (Public Domain)

Following news that President Donald Trump previously passed on the opportunity to purchase additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Department of Health and Human Services has secured additional vaccinations. That leads to the question of when most Americans will get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar recently announced the HHS will purchase an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. According to Azar, there will be a “seamless transition” regarding distribution of the newly acquired doses. Azar said all Americans may have access to the vaccine as early as June 2021. 

“This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021,” Azar said in a statement.

At least 70% of the doses will be delivered by the end of June, and any remaining should be delivered by the end of July. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told WebMD it’s possible the United States could achieve herd immunity by summer 2021. If the general population starts getting vaccinated in April, as Fauci hopes, people could host large parties or weddings by June or July. 

“By the time we get into the middle or end of the summer, I believe we will have, if we do it correctly, we could have 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated,” Fauci said. “When that occurs, there will be an umbrella of protection over the entire country.”

The general public won’t be eligible for vaccination until the spring, at the earliest, according to Fauci. Azar, however, believes people could have access to the COVID-19 vaccine at local pharmacies by the end of February or March. The HHS has the option to purchase 400 million additional doses, as well as the potential to approve other vaccines, which could help vaccination efforts across the U.S.

Healthcare workers have already started the vaccination process, as have some high-risk populations.

The initial goal was to vaccinate 20 million people by the beginning of 2021, but the U.S. is lagging behind. While roughly 15.4 million doses have been distributed across the country, only 4.5 million people received a vaccine by the first Monday of January, according to the CDC.

To help speed up the vaccination process, experts have considered giving half doses of Moderna’s vaccine to people aged 18-55. This would broaden the demographic of people getting vaccinated, but it will likely be less effective than receiving a whole dose.

Early data suggests a half dose of the Moderna vaccine is similarly effective to the full dose for people under 55, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of the Operation Warp Speed team. Other experts say the half dose has not been sufficiently studied, and may not be as effective. 

The FDA will meet the first week of January to decide whether administering half doses is acceptable. 

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: Newsweek, CNBC, Medical Xpress, CNN, CDC

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