Washington — Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Sunday that the new administration’s goal of administering 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine in Mr. Biden’s first 100 days in office is a “floor, not a ceiling.”
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Fauci said in an interview on “Face the Nation” on achieving Mr. Biden’s goal. “I think it was a reasonable goal that was set, we always want to do better than the goal you set, but it is really a floor and not a ceiling.”
Mr. Biden has been clear in the weeks before and the days since his inauguration that confronting the coronavirus crisis and its economic impacts is a foremost priority for him, and pledged to administer 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office. Last week, the president unveiled his national strategy for combatting the pandemic and used his executive authority to ramp up production of vaccines, testing supplies and personal protective equipment.
According to The Washington Post, modeling from Mr. Biden’s transition team showed 100 million shots means roughly 33 million people would be fully vaccinated, and 67 million would be fully or partially immunized, as both vaccines developed by Pfizer, with Germany’s BioNTech, and Moderna require two doses.
Already, more than 41.1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been distributed and 20.5 million doses have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly 17.4 million people have received at least one of their shots.
Fauci said that by the end of Mr. Biden’s first 100 days in office, there will be people “who will have gotten two doses and then some that are still on their first dose.”
“When you add them all up and you look at shots, it’s 100 million shots in the arms of people within the first 100 days,” he said.
While there have been instances where 1 million doses were administered per day, Fauci said those occurred predominantly in areas where it was easier to give people shots, such as in nursing homes or hospitals.
“If you look forward with the challenges that we will be having, getting it out into the community that is not easily accessible, getting it to people that are not uniform in the sense of being health care providers or people in nursing home, I still think that challenge is really — it’s going to be a floor, not a ceiling,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy to do that.”
Fauci stressed that “we’ve got to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can as quickly as we possibly can.”
Mr. Biden’s push to ramp up vaccinations comes as the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise and as two new strains have been detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The variant identified in the United Kingdom has been found in more than a dozen states.
Fauci said the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna seem to protect against the new strain from the United Kingdom.
“The cushion that you have of efficacy is so large that it’s not going to negatively impact,” he said.
But Fauci said the variant from South Africa is “a little bit more concerning,” particularly its impact on monoclonal antibodies used as a treatment for COVID-19.
“It can, in some respects, knocks out their efficacy. It looks like it does diminish more so the efficacy of the vaccine. But we’re still within that cushion level of the vaccines being efficacious against these mutants,” he said.
Fauci noted, however, that the federal government is already preparing for the possibility the vaccines may need to be modified and upgraded.
“We don’t need to do that right now,” he said. “The best way to prevent the further evolution of these mutants is to vaccinate as many people as possible with the vaccines that we have currently available to us.”