It may just be a few months before “virtually anybody and everybody” can get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Right now, vaccines are still going to people in priority groups, such as essential workers and those over 75 years old, Dr. Fauci said in a new interview with TODAY. But “if you look at the projection, I would imagine [that] by the time we get to April that will be what I would call ‘open season,’” he said, meaning that “virtually anybody and everybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”
From there it will likely take “several more months just logistically to get vaccine into people’s arms,” Dr. Fauci continued, predicting that we could achieve herd immunity around the middle or end of the summer. To develop herd immunity, enough people will need to get the vaccine so that those who can’t get the vaccine still have some level of protection, SELF explained previously. Essentially, herd immunity makes it too difficult for the virus to spread widely even if there are people within a community who can’t or don’t get the vaccine. (However, to achieve herd immunity, the vaccines need to prevent transmission of the coronavirus in addition to symptoms of the infection. The evidence we have now shows that they can prevent symptoms, and experts think it’s likely they can reduce transmission as well, but that hasn’t been conclusively proven at this point.)
Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said previously that vaccine doses would not be widely available by the end of February, as the previous administration had promised. And Dr. Fauci’s new estimate generally lines up with her timeline.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency authorization to two vaccines so far, one developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and one from Moderna. But, even as the supply of those vaccines starts to catch up to demand (and a possible third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson appears on the horizon), getting those shots into people’s arms on the ground has been a challenge. Officials in the Biden administration said they didn’t have accurate information about how many doses were available, which made it difficult for them and state and local authorities to plan the rollout efficiently. It’s also been a challenge to make sure the vaccine rollout is equitable. We know Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people face a higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19, but the majority of people who have been vaccinated in the U.S. so far have been white, according to CDC data.
Until enough people have gotten the vaccines, we’ll need to keep relying on the other public health tools we have to limit the spread of COVID-19. Those include wearing a mask (particularly one that fits well and has at least two layers of fabric), social distancing, washing our hands frequently, and avoiding crowds.