Hours after the first health care workers rolled up their sleeves to receive the first dose of Pfizer and BioNTech’s two-jab coronavirus vaccine, the nation surpassed 300,000 deaths from the virus, tainting what many in the medical community were heralding as the “beginning of the end” to the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, called the moment “bittersweet.”
Fauci’s comments were prompted by George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” who pointed out 17,000 lives were lost in the last week alone.
“Well, it’s you know, it’s bittersweet, George, because we are still in a terrible situation with the numbers that you mentioned, the deaths, the hospitalizations, the number of cases,” Fauci said. “And, yet, we’re really now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel that is going to ultimately get us through this.”
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The first dose of New York’s coronavirus vaccine supply, for instance, went to a health care worker identified as Sandra Lindsay, RN, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Other states also saw their first vaccinations on Monday, including California, Iowa, Connecticut and Florida.
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“We know we’re going to be able to put this behind us, but in the meantime, we still have a struggle ahead of us,” Fauci continued, adding that vaccinations need to happen as quickly as possible until the country reaches herd immunity at about 75% to 80% of the population vaccinated, per his opinion.
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He echoed previous comments that, amid deep vaccine skepticism in the U.S., the speedy development process reflects “extraordinary advances” in science, and also billions of dollars invested in distribution.
Fauci later added that President Trump, Vice President Pence, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris should all get vaccinated as soon as possible. He noted that while Trump previously had COVID-19, it is still unclear how long those antibodies offer protection.