The top U.S. infectious diseases specialist said the backlog of coronavirus vaccinations from last week’s severe weather should be mopped up by midweek.
The pace of vaccinations dipped over the past week as freezing weather gridlocked much of the Southern U.S. and in some cases prevented the movement of supplies.
“The number was 6 million doses delayed,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” one of three interviews he did on Sunday talk shows.
“When you just, you know, put your foot to the accelerator and really push, we’ll get it up to where we need to be by the middle of the week.”
Fauci spoke as the U.S. stands on the verge of a milestone few imagined when the first coronavirus cases were diagnosed a year ago: 500,000 deaths. That level was probably to be reached today or Monday.
“It’s something that is stunning when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable, but it’s true,” Fauci said. “This is a devastating pandemic, and it’s historic. People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now.”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci said the U.S. could be approaching normality toward the fall or winter of this year.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen considerably since peaking in early January. The pace of vaccinations is on the rise, with more than 60 million doses given so far, according to a state-by-state tally.
Close to 13% of of the U.S. population has had at least the first of two doses, although the rollout has been criticized for leaving much of the minority population behind.
At the current pace it would take an estimated nine months to cover 75% of Americans with a two-dose vaccine. But a one-dose version, from Johnson & Johnson, could be approved in the U.S. within weeks, which may start to break the logjam.
Discussing the recent sharp decline in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Fauci said it was “the natural peaking and coming down.”
“I don’t think we’ve vaccinated enough people yet to get the herd immunity,” he said. “What I don’t and none of my colleagues want to see, is when you look at that slope to come down and to say, ‘Wow, we’re out of the woods now. We’re in good shape.