The United States could get the coronavirus pandemic under control by the "back half of 2021" if enough people are vaccinated against the disease in the spring once doses are widely available, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday.
That would mean businesses could likely welcome employees back to the office, restaurants could open indoors at full capacity and sporting events and theater performances could resume safely if enough people are vaccinated against Covid-19, Fauci told The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council summit.
"I think we can get there towards the second half of 2021 if we implement the vaccine program properly and aggressively," Fauci said.
The infectious diseases expert, who will remain in a similar position next year as an advisor to President-elect Joe Biden on Covid, said it's likely there should be enough doses of vaccine available for all Americans beginning in late March and early April.
However, the challenge will be persuading the "overwhelming majority" of people in the U.S. to get vaccinated, Fauci said. In order to get an "umbrella of herd immunity" in the nation, roughly 75% or more of the population will need to be vaccinated against the virus, he said.
Until then, people will still have to adhere to public health guidance, such as wearing masks and social distancing, he said, but the "stringency" of those measures will diminish as more people are vaccinated and the U.S. gets closer to full protection.
There will likely be a "small core" of people who won't take a vaccine "no matter what you tell them," Fauci said. While he said he wouldn't give up on trying to persuade them to get vaccinated, the U.S. should focus on persuading people to take the vaccine who are hesitant "because of a misunderstanding of the facts and the data."
Fauci's comments come only days before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could potentially issue Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine an emergency use authorization. A group of outside medical experts, known as the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, is set to meet on Thursday to review the company's vaccine, which it developed with German drugmaker BioNTech.
Meanwhile, the U.K. on Tuesday became the first country to begin inoculating people with Pfizer's vaccine outside of clinical trials after it approved the drug last week.
On Tuesday, the FDA said data from Pfizer's vaccine trials showed the drug was highly effective and did not raise any specific safety concerns. The vaccine, which requires two doses, was found to be 94.8% effective after seven days of the second inoculation, the agency said.