Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned on Sunday that a vaccine that could be authorized for use as early as this week is crucial but it will not be able to protect Americans from the recent hike in COVID cases across the country.
“The vaccine is critical, but it’s not going to save us from this current surge. Only we can save us from this current surge. And we know precisely what to do,” Birx said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“So, if you have loved ones that you want to protect, you have to follow these guidelines now.”
Birx, who wore a pink mask during the interview, said the “fall/winter surge is combining everything that we saw in this spring with everything that we saw in the summer, plus the fall surge going into a winter surge.”
She reiterated a warning from Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is not just the worst public health event. This is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side. Yet we know what behaviors spread the virus and we know how to change those behaviors to stop spreading the virus,” she said.
Birx urged Americans to follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines, including wearing a mask indoors when not at home.
“We have to listen right now to what we know works, which is masks, physical distancing, washing your hands, but not gathering. You cannot gather without masks in any indoor or close outdoor situation,” she said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said a Food and Drug Administration panel is examining vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna and could grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer on Thursday.
Azar said the administration would begin a rollout the next day.
“What we’ve said is within 24 hours of the FDA greenlighting with authorization, we’ll ship to all of the states and territories that we work with. And within hours they can be vaccinating,” Azar said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Health experts feared that travel and gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday would cause a spike in coronavirus cases and create a dire situation for hospitals when combined with the expected increase in cases during the winter months.
Daily cases have been regularly surpassing 200,000 and there have been more than 2,000 deaths a day since the beginning of December.
The coronavirus death toll has exceeded 282,000.