“I think it’s a good idea. It’s never too late. This pandemic is ravaging the country. We all need to take our precaution, wear our masks, wash our hands, keep our distance, remain aware that this virus is a killer,” Slaoui told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
“We have a vaccine. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June, so we need to be very cautious and vigilant,” he added.
Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor told Tapper later in the program Sunday that although Biden’s plan is “absolutely a great step in the right direction,” mandating mask-wearing “in every single nook and cranny maybe doesn’t fit … reality.”
“Certainly I would encourage folks to wear their masks wherever they go, especially in crowds,” Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said.
“I expect them to recommend approval, based on the data I’m aware of. And I saw the vaccine is highly effective, the vaccine is safe, its safety profile is comparable to that of many other vaccines that have been in use for years,” he said.
“Overall, I really hope they do it quickly, and that the vaccine will be available to our population starting later this week,” Slaoui added.
While Slaoui used the word approval, what the FDA is considering falls short of full approval. The FDA has said it will require close to full approval standard for a coronavirus vaccine, but will use the quicker emergency use authorization route while the companies pull together all of the information needed for the full approval process, known as a Biologics License Application or BLA.
The agency will meet with the advisory committee again next week to review a vaccine application submitted by Moderna.
Slaoui said that once a vaccine is ready for distribution, it will be administered to health care workers and people in long term care facilities such as nursing homes with the hope that most of them will receive it in the coming weeks.
“Unfortunately, about 40 to 50% of all deaths are happening in the elderly population that’s in care homes,” he said. “We should be able to have immunized that full population and the health care workers that take care of them by the end of the month of December or by the middle of the month of January.”
And by mid-March, Slaoui said, “most of the highly susceptible population — about 100 million people,” should be vaccinated.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify Slaoui’s quote on the FDA’s consideration of the Pfizer vaccine. It is considering emergency use authorization this week.
CNN’s Michael Warren, Dan Merica and Tara Subramaniam contributed to this report.