Adm. Brett Giroir, the top testing official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Wednesday that Americans still need to practice coronavirus safety measures even with vaccinations underway nationwide.
“Although we’re very positive about the vaccine, it is absolutely imperative that we continue our work to wear masks, to avoid crowded places, to physically distance, to avoid travel if you can,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “Because until the vaccine gets widespread, this is still our best measures to flatten the curve and save lives.”
Giroir said Americans should listen to public health messages, adding the U.S. is “still at a dangerous and critical part of this pandemic and tens of thousands of American lives are at stake.”
He said widespread immunity through the vaccine won’t occur until late spring or early summer.
Vaccinations in the United States began on a limited basis this week after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization to a Pfizer-BioNTech-crafted vaccine on Friday. FDA approval of another vaccine candidate developed by Moderna is imminent.
As of Wednesday, the U.S. has roughly 16.8 million coronavirus cases and 306,000 related deaths — both tops globally — according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.