Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in an interview Sunday that the COVID-19 vaccine is “critical,” but it wouldn’t save Americans from the impending surge of COVID-19 infections.

“Every state across this country needs to increase their mitigation, and every state needs to be critically informing their state population that the gatherings that we saw in Thanksgiving will lead to a surge,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Moncef Slaoui, the head of the White House operation “Warp Speed” said Sunday that the vaccine could be available to some people in the US by the end of this week, part of a slow rollout that will first prioritize healthcare workers and at-risk populations.

Birx predicted Sunday the vaccine wouldn’t be available to the “most vulnerable” Americans until February. 

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Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned Sunday that while the COVID-19 vaccine is “critical” to ending the pandemic, it’s not an excuse to stop other efforts to stem the spread of the disease.

“The vaccine’s critical,” she told Chuck Todd during an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “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. So if you have loved ones that you want to protect, you have to follow these guidelines now.”

Days before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Americans against traveling, still, millions of Americans traveled, further exacerbating the reality that the ongoing rise in cases nationally, which began in September, would worsen in the coming weeks as new cases are diagnosed. 

Throughout the country, cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are up following experts’ long-predicted fall and winter surge. On Wednesday, the US surpassed 100,000 people hospitalized at one time for the first time during the pandemic, breaking the previous record. The US the same day shattered the record for single-day deaths, with more than 2,800 new deaths reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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In total, more than 281,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the US since the pandemic began earlier this year, according to the Hopkins data.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the head of the White House operation “Warp Speed” said Sunday that the vaccine could be administered to some Americans by the end of this week. But the rollout of the vaccine will likely take months, with healthcare workers and more vulnerable populations likely to receive the vaccine before it becomes widely available later next year.

 

“Every state across this country needs to increase their mitigation, and every state needs to be critically informing their state population that the gatherings that we saw in Thanksgiving will lead to a surge,” Birx said. “It will happen this week and next week.”

She continued: “And we cannot go into the holiday season – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa – with this same kind of attitude that ‘those gatherings don’t apply to me.’ They apply to everybody. If you don’t want to lose your grandparents, your aunts.”

Birx said she was “thrilled” with the development of the vaccine, but said it wouldn’t be available to the “most vulnerable Americans” until February and encouraged Americans to take precautions, including masks, proper hygiene, and physical distancing, in the interim. 

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