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Americans could be vaccinated and back to ‘regular life’ sometime next year, officials say

On Wednesday, two of the nation’s top doctors said Americans could be vaccinated sometime next summer, although White House insists the timeline is much sooner

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield holds up a CDC document that reads “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations” as he speaks at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on a “Review of Coronavirus Response Efforts” on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Washington.

Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal public health officials said this week that the United States could have enough coronavirus vaccines to get back to “regular life” sometime next year, but those officials and the White House disagreed on how soon Americans could be vaccinated.

“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 a vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, CNBC reported.

The coronavirus vaccine is being expedited in the government’s “Operation Warp Speed.” The goal of Warp Speed is to accelerate the development of a vaccine and then a delivery 300 million doses by January 2021.

Redfield also said he thought a “very limited supply” of vaccine would be available sometime between November or December this year and would need to be prioritized for “first responders and those at greatest risk for death.”

“It’s hard to believe, but there’s about 80 million people in our country that have significant comorbidities” — or additional health conditions that can increase the severity of COVID-19 — and will need to be vaccinated before the general public, the director added.

Paul Mango, U.S. Department of Health and Human Service deputy chief of staff for policy, was more optimistic Wednesday.

The federal government would be able to “vaccinate every American before the end of first quarter 2021,” Mango told Bloomberg in an interview.

He said this would be possible because the government was under contract for enough doses, had “line of sight” on clinical trials and believed the Food and Drug Administration would green light the vaccine before the end of the year.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said the HHS plan was “possible,” but it would logistically tough.

“It would be aspirational,” he said Wednesday, “but I think it’s more toward the middle to the end of the year that you could get people vaccinated,” according to Bloomberg. The NIAID director’s comment were part of interview for next week’s Bloomberg Equality Summit.

Like Redfield, Fauci was “reasonably confident” that at least one vaccine would be approved and made available for use by November or December of this year.

Later Wednesday, President Donald Trump said Redfield “made a mistake” during his Senate testimony.

“We’re ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced,” Trump said at a press conference Wednesday. “It could be announced in October, it could be announced a little bit after,” according to the a video of the press conference posted on The Washington Post website.

“When we go, we go. We’re not looking to say ‘Gee, in six months, we’re going to start giving it to the general public.’ No, we want to go immediately,” the president said of the timeline to distribute to all Americans.

Presidential adviser Scott Atlas then clarified that “high priority people” would have access to a vaccine “not later than January” — as long a vaccine is approved by then — and anticipated that “700 million doses” would be available by the end of March 2021.

On Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said of the different vaccine timelines coming from the administration, “if I were betting man, I’d bet on President Trump.”

“Based on what I know behind the scenes, how quickly we’re moving on the clinical trials, I think that we’ll at least have some results in October,” Meadows added. “The president is pushing very hard to make sure that we’re delivering a vaccine before the end of the year.”