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Azar: Every American should be able to get a coronavirus vaccine by mid-2021

Every American will be able to get a coronavirus vaccine by the second quarter of 2021, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in an interview for "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: As cases, hospitalizations and deaths keep climbing higher, a vaccine seems to be the only chance the U.S. will have to arrest this pandemic.

  • "My expectation is that next year we return to normalcy in our lives thanks to the incredible work of Operation Warp Speed and these vaccines, as well as the therapeutics," Azar told Axios' Mike Allen.

Reality check: A lot will have to go right in order to meet Azar's 2021 timeline, but it's not outside the realm of what experts see as realistic in a best-case scenario.

  • A vaccine hasn't even been authorized yet by the Food and Drug Administration, but assuming that happens soon, distributing it across the U.S. and the world will be an unprecedented logistical undertaking.
  • The two most effective vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, both require two shots — meaning they'd need to produce and distribute roughly 760 million doses, just within the U.S. and within the next six months, for every American to be get vaccinated by the end of the second quarter.

Azar said it's "my hope" that football stadiums will be packed next fall.

  • He also rejected the premise that the Trump administration's coronavirus response has been a debacle.
  • "We've saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives," he said, citing the administration's early actions, which have since largely been lifted as cases soared and deaths have continued to climb.
  • The U.S. death count is now over 280,000.

The interview airs tonight on "Axios on HBO," at 11pm ET/PT on all HBO platforms.

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