HHS secretary: As many as 20 million Americans could get COVID-19 vaccine by end of year

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INDIANAPOLIS – Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told FOX59 as many as 20 million Americans could get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year and he believes by the spring of 2021 the country will have enough doses for every American who would like to get vaccinated.

On December 10, an FDA advisory committee will meet regarding the Pfizer vaccine. Secretary Azar said the FDA could grant authorization within days of that meeting.

“We will get that product shipped 24 hours of FDA authorization and at that point Governor Holcomb and others will tell us where they want it to go and they will have prioritized who should get it,” he said.

Moderna is about a week behind Pfizer. Their hearing will take place on December 17.

Secretary Azar said he thinks by the end of the spring of next year the country will have enough vaccine for every American who would like to have it. Along the way, millions of Americans will get vaccinated. The federal government hopes to add additional vaccines, such as AstraZeneca’s candidate, as clinical trials come to a conclusion.

On Tuesday a CDC panel recommended healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities should get vaccinated first. These are just recommendations so governors will determine who gets it first. Indiana plans to also give the first doses of vaccine to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Once there is FDA approval, Secretary Azar said they will ask an advisory committee for additional input on who should receive the next batch of vaccine.

A recent Gallup poll showed 58 percent of Americans said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine, up from a low of 50% in September. The latest data came from a survey conducted October 19 to November 1. That was before Pfizer and Moderna made promising announcements about the effectiveness of their coronavirus vaccines.

Secretary Azar explained the federal government will be running advertisements within the week to help convince more people to get vaccinated.

IU Health Methodist Hospital will be one of the first sites in the state to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. They plan to set up a vaccine clinic on the campus to administer doses to front line workers.

“We will get them in. They will get vaccinated. We will direct them to an auditorium where they will wait for about 15 minutes to make sure they are doing fine and they are free to go,” said Mary Kay Foster, special pathogens program manager at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

Foster is one of the lead individuals planning a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for the hospital. They are prepared to go live within 24 hours of receiving a vaccine.

She explained signing up to get vaccinated will be similar to registering for a COVID-19 test. The hospital’s vaccine stations will be open seven days a week for 12 hours a day. Foster said healthcare workers will be asked to present their badge for verification.

“The more people who take the vaccine, the quicker we won’t have as much infection going on or transmission going on,” she said.

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