Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar believes that most Americans will be able to get inoculated against the novel coronavirus as soon as late February.
“I believe by the end of February, the end of March, of course, depending on the decisions by our governors, but I believe we’ll have enough supply out there to be reaching out to the general public for administration—at your CVS, Walgreens, Kroger—by the end of February into March,” he said in an interview on CNBC on Tuesday night, adding that the timeline could be moved up if vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson receive Food and Drug Administration approval earlier than expected.
Approximately twenty drugstores and grocery stores forged partnerships with the health agency last month to help administer the vaccines. Walgreens and CVS, in particular, are expected to play a vital role in the early phases of the vaccine rollout.
Health officials and medical experts have been holding out hope for weeks that a viable vaccine will stem the surging number of cases that the United States has witnessed over the past few weeks.
New data has revealed that just in the past week, an average of 2,403 people in the United States have died from coronavirus each day—that’s an average of one death every forty seconds.
“Any death from COVID is a terrible tragedy,” Azar told CNN on Monday.
“I lost my father in April. I wasn’t able to see him for the month and a half before. I’ve gotten to experience the pain of individuals who can’t be with their relatives. The pain and the anguish in our health care system in our country is real.”
There are also 110,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals nationwide right now, further straining medical staff and resources, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Hospitals in nearly twenty states are at or near capacity.
Azar noted that in order to get the pandemic under a more manageable level, all Americans must “act responsibly, wash our hands, watch our distance, wear our face coverings when we can’t watch our distance, stay out of crowded indoor settings.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.