America could reach herd immunity to the coronavirus sometime around May, according to a schedule set by Operation Warp Speed’s best scientific adviser.
Dr. Monceff Slavey spoke with Jake Tapper during the State of the Union on Sunday about the vaccine delivery schedule developed by Moderna and Pfizer, each of which is awaiting approval.
An advisory committee meets on 10 December to decide whether or not to approve the vaccines. If the panel approves, Slavey said the government would take swift action to deliver vaccines across the country.
“Our plan is to be able to send vaccines to immunization sites within 24 hours of approval, so I would expect maybe the second day after approval, December 11 or 12,” Slavey said.
Asked how long it could take to achieve herd immunity, which could potentially allow him to return to normal, Slavey confirmed that Operation Warp Speed had determined that he could distribute up to 20 million immunizations a month, starting in December.
“Usually with the level of efficacy we have – 95% – then about 70% of the population that is immunized would allow for real herd immunity,” Slavey said. “It will probably happen sometime in May, something like that, based on our plans.”
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Operation Warp Speed will take signals from state health departments to determine where the vaccines should go and who will receive the immunizations first.
Slavey said the Centers for Disease Control and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet to issue guidelines on which countries should prioritize vaccinations, but the final decision will depend on each state.
“But obviously the people at the highest risk, the front line workers, the core workers should be among the first,” Slavey said.
However, the key will be to change public perceptions of the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. A recent Gallup study found that only about 58% of people trust the vaccine enough to take it.
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“I really hope and look forward to seeing the level of people’s negative perceptions of vaccine reduction and positive perceptions,” Slavey said. “Most people need to be immunized before we can return to normal life.”
In her next appearance on Sunday morning, Slavey answered questions about the broadcast between the Trump administration and the upcoming Biden administration, with President-elect Joe Biden scheduled to announce key cabinet appointments next week.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Slavey confirmed that Operation Warp Speed had not yet been in contact with anyone on the Biden transition team.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press”, Slavey stressed that Operation “Warp Speed” was separated from the “political environment” and hoped that there would be no interruption during the transition.
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“My personal role, as you know, is to get involved voluntarily,” Slavey said. “My personal agenda is that when we have two approved vaccines and two drugs, and the rest of the portfolio we have in good hands, I will probably go back to my personal life.”
“As you know, I supported the program, and if that means working with the new administration, I will be very happy.”