Now that the FDA has given Pfizer's COVID vaccine the green light, the return to normalcy is creeping closer. Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has made a few predictions about when the U.S. would be able to go back to normal. With a clearer timeline for the vaccine rollout, he's able to make a more confident assumption. On Dec. 10, Fauci told Chris Cuomo on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time that he believes that "some form of normality" will return as soon as the summer and definitely by the fall—on one condition.
According to Fauci, how swiftly we get back to normal is reliant on how many people get vaccinated. "It depends how quickly and how many people want to get vaccinated," Fauci said. "If we have a smooth vaccination program where everybody steps to the plate quickly, we could get back to some form of normality reasonably quickly into the summer and certainly into the fall." To see Fauci's answers to your most burning questions about the vaccine, read on, and for one simple step he's asking everyone to take, Dr. Fauci Says You Need to Do This One Thing to Stop COVID.
When will people that are not considered high priority be able to get vaccinated?
Once the vaccine is ready to go, it will first be doled out to the high-priority groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has decided the high-priority groups include health care personnel, long-term care facility residents and workers, essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and adults over the age of 65. After those groups have been vaccinated, the vaccine will be offered to the general public.
Fauci believes that December through March will be spent vaccinating the high-priority groups. He projects that by April, it'll be "open season in the sense of anyone, even the non-high-priority groups, could get vaccinated." And for a look at potential complications, An FDA Adviser Is "Worried About" This Vaccine Side Effect.
When will the U.S. be fully vaccinated?
Some Americans will refuse to get vaccinated entirely, so the U.S. will likely never be fully vaccinated. However, Fauci predicts that by "the end of the second quarter into the summer," we'll have a veil of protection through a combination of herd immunity and vaccinations "that would really essentially protect all the vulnerable."
However, Fauci does point out that it all depends "upon the people's willingness to come up and step up to the plate and get vaccinated." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
When will students be back in school?
Cuomo asked Fauci how soon we can hope to see all schools open for in-person learning. While Fauci seemed doubtful that there would be in-person graduations this May and June, he was confident that schools could begin returning to normal sometime next year—but again, that depends on how many people get vaccinated.
"My hope and my projection is that if we get people vaccinated en masse so that we get that large percentage of the population, as we get into the fall, we can get real comfort about people being in schools, safe in school," Fauci said. He added that the goal is to not only get students back in school but to keep them in school. And to learn more about children and the vaccine, This Is When We'll Know If the COVID Vaccine Is Safe for Kids, Fauci Says.
Will I still have to follow COVID precautions after I'm vaccinated?
According to Fauci, we'll be wearing masks well after the vaccinations begin. "Until you have virus that is so low in society, we as a nation need to continue to wear the mask, to keep the physical distance, to avoid crowds," said Fauci. "We're not through with this just because we're starting a vaccine program—even though you as an individual might have gotten vaccinated, it is not over by any means. We still have a long way to go." And for more vaccine news, These Are the Only People Who Shouldn't Get the COVID Vaccine.