The Slatest

Coronavirus Vaccine Czar Says Life in the U.S. Could Get Back to Normal in May

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, vaccine expert, delivers an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 13, 2020.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, vaccine expert, delivers an update on “Operation Warp Speed” in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 13, 2020. MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States crossed the 12 million-mark, the head of the government’s effort to develop a vaccine against the virus sounded an optimistic note by saying life could start to get back to normal around May. That is, of course, assuming that everything goes according to the current plan that involves starting vaccinations around mid-December, said Moncef Slaoui, the White House’s top scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed.

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“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunization sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I would expect maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in all the areas where the state departments of health will have told us where to deliver the vaccine,” Slaoui said on CNN’s State of the Union. He went on to say that if the vaccine has a level of efficacy of 95 percent, around 70 percent of the population would have to be vaccinated “for true herd immunity to take place.” And according to current plans, “that is likely to happen somewhere in the month of May.”

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In order for that plan to become a reality, the negative views of vaccines among the general population needs to decline. “That’s going to be critical to help us,” he said. “Most people need to be immunized before we can go back to a normal life.” Speaking on ABC News, Slaoui said he was “very, very concerned about the hesitancy” to be vaccinated, adding that it “has been exacerbated by the political context under which we have worked very hard.” A Gallup poll taken in October found that 42 percent of Americans said they would not get a vaccine, which was down from 50 percent in September but still a significant number.

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Slaoui confirmed he has not yet talked to anyone from President-elect Joe Biden’s team. Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Slaoui said that the work on the vaccines “has been isolated from the administration, from the political environment and the political context.” He assured that “the train is running” and “it doesn’t frankly make a difference” if there’s a change in administration as they’re rolling out the ambitious vaccination effort. At the same time though, when he was asked if he would like to start briefing Biden’s team, Slaoui said that at this point he could only provide the incoming administration with public information. “I have been informed that I should not be saying anything that’s confidential to anybody, including, you know, anybody that’s not part of the administration,” he said. “And therefore, I’ll act according to what the legal requirements are.”

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