Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, CEO of the Mayo Clinic, is urging Americans to take the first Covid-19 vaccine available to them.
"My message is very simple: Don't wait for a particular vaccine," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "Get the first vaccine that is offered because their benefits far outweigh any potential risk."
Two coronavirus vaccines have been approved in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use — one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and the other from Moderna. The Moderna vaccine, after receiving limited clearance Friday, is being rolled out this week. The first Americans outside of clinical trials started receiving shots of the Pfizer vaccine last week.
Currently, health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are receiving priority in the initial round of vaccinations. However, as the number of available doses increases, a broader range of people will become eligible to be immunized. On Sunday, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel recommended that front-line essential workers and people 75 years of age and older be next in line.
The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which both are two shots, demonstrated strong efficacy in clinical trials. Pfizer reported efficacy of 95% in its large-scale study, while Moderna's vaccine was more than 94% effective at preventing Covid.
"To have a vaccine that is 95% effective, as the two vaccines we currently have are, is a medical marvel," said Farrugia, who has led the Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic since January 2019.
Other vaccines may receive FDA clearance next year, which could help expand the pool of Americans who could receive the shots. Johnson & Johnson expects to receive data from its late-stage vaccine trial early next year and potentially apply for emergency use authorization in February.
The vaccines come at a critical moment in the global pandemic. As of Monday, the nation's seven-day average of new infections was 215,429, the sixth highest ever, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The record high came last week. The latest seven-day average of daily new U.S. deaths was 2,655, the worst run-rate yet.
"It is essential that people get educated and then they get vaccinated. It's the only way we're going to get out of this pandemic," Farrugia said.