HHS secretary says widespread COVID vaccine could ready by March

HHS secretary tells Channel 2 widespread COVID vaccine could ready by March

ATLANTA — Health leaders at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they are cautiously optimistic there will be a limited amount of coronavirus vaccines ready by the end of the year.

The news comes as Alex Azar, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, visited the CDC and Grady Memorial Hospital on Wednesday to give an update on the coronavirus pandemic.

Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot was with Azar as he toured Grady Memorial and learned that President Donald Trump’s administration and the CDC believe a COVID-19 vaccine won’t be widely available to the public until March at the earliest.

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Azar told Elliot he anticipates at least one drug could be available by the end of the year, which he said is crucial given the expected surge of cases during the colder months.

“Our message for everybody is, we’re in a critical period right now where we need to bridge to the hopeful days of monoclonal antibodies and vaccines—really just weeks to just months ahead,” Azar said.

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From Grady, Azar went to the CDC where he met with senior officials including director Robert Redfield, who elaborated on the timetable.

“I know it’s been a difficult year for Americans, but we will get through this” Redfield said. “We believe we will have one or three vaccines ready by the end of the year.”

But, Azar added, those first doses, whenever ready, will be distributed to the most-vulnerable population. The drug may not be widely available until at least March, he said.

“By the end of January, we would have enough to vaccinate all seniors as well as our health care workers and first responders, and by the end of March to early April, enough vaccine for all Americans who would want to take a vaccine,” Azar said.

Critics worry the Trump administration has been trying to muzzle CDC scientists and control the flow of information.

Azar said since the CDC is just one government agency responding to coronavirus, the administration wants to, as he put it, “integrate” messaging into a whole-of-government response.

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