Operation Warp Speed officials told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. could start seeing a drop in COVID-19 mortality rates, particularly among elderly people now that first responders and nursing homes are receiving the vaccine.
Gen. Gustave Perna confirmed that 20 million vaccine doses will be distributed by year's end, with 15.5 million doses already dispersed throughout the U.S. to first responders and elderly facilities. This does not mean 20 million Americans can expect to receive the vaccines by the New Year.
Only a reported 1 million of the 9 million vaccines received by states have been administered, Perna confirmed Wednesday. The apparently slow pace was largely due to the "Herculean task" of doling out the vaccine to different counties, hospitals and facilities in need.
"It’s about access to the vaccine once it arrives and execution," Perna told reporters. "And we feel very strongly that they really have set up, and are immunizing, quite a bit of people."
The officials emphasized that there is a "72-96 hour lag" on the status of the number of vaccines administered, suggesting that more than 1 million Americans already have received the first dose of the vaccine.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui maintained a hopeful tone, even as President-elect Joe Biden warned Tuesday that our "darkest days are ahead" in the fight against coronavirus.
Slaoui said he believes the U.S. is still on track to have 100 million immunizations by the end of March – meaning both rounds of doses will have been administered.
The chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed said that two weeks after 1 million people have received both doses of the vaccine, the U.S. should start to see a drop in the mortality rate.
Saloui addressed recent fears after the development of new strains of the virus in Europe and Africa by telling reporters that there is "no evidence to support" that these other variants are more infective.
He also said that while research is underway to understand allergic reactions, the six out of 1 million people with a reaction "does not change the safety profile of the vaccine."
Both health officials maintained a hopeful perspective throughout the Wednesday press conference, a stark comparison to Biden’s frank presser one day prior.
"One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I'm going to tell it to you straight. I'm going to tell you the truth. And here's the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us," Biden said.
Biden reminded people that they need to take the virus seriously by wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings.
He warned that even with the vaccine distribution, the virus will remain a threat for some time.
"We need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines," the president-elect continued. "As frustrating as it is to hear, it's going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus. There will be no time to waste in taking the steps we need to turn this crisis around."