The White House has set an ambitious goal of having at least 70% of the nation's adult population at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, but for that to happen, work must continue to understand why a significant number of Americans remain hesitant about getting their shots, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.
"We need to do this one person at a time," Walensky said on CNN's "New Day," explaining that the current hesitancy had already been expected. "We've seen from other experiences in the U.K. as well as in Israel that the more people vaccinated, the less disease you have."
She added that the nation's disease rates are starting to drop because vaccine efforts have risen, so "we need to be cautious and make sure we get as many people vaccinated as we can."
CNN reported Wednesday that fewer than 1 million COVID-19 vaccines went into arms on Tuesday, marking the lowest number of shots administered in one day since February.
Walensky, however, said that the dip in vaccinations had been expected.
"We knew at the end of April, early May, that we would have a different kind of work ahead of us," she said. "Until now, we've had over 240 million vaccines into people's arms. We have 40% of the population fully vaccinated over the age of 18. We knew that we would have a lot of supply by the end of April, early May, but we also knew this would be the time that we had people who were more hesitant, that people wouldn't be rushing to get the vaccine."
The administration is getting vaccines into pharmacies so that 90% of Americans are within 5 miles of a vaccine, said Walensky.
Walk-in appointments are also becoming available, as are rural clinics and resources to community-based organizations, she added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is saying that the nation must reach 80% immunity or there will be a huge surge of cases next winter, CNN pointed out in the interview, and Walensky agreed that "we have to be humbled by this virus."
"I think we have variants ahead of us," said said. "We do want to have full immunity in this population yet so I think anything is possible, which is why I think we should focus on getting people protected and vaccinated now to do as much as we can to prevent that from happening."
She added that Pfizer will also likely get emergency use authorization that will allow children ages 12-15 to get COVID shots as early as next week.
"The vaccine is already in these pharmacies at the dose that we need," she said. "You'll be able to take your 14-year-old and bring them in to get vaccinated."
She added that the CDC's guidance on masks, schools, and more will be updated while the rates of infection continue to drop, but still, caution is needed "because there are still some places, some communities that have less than 20% vaccination and still a lot of disease."
Meanwhile, Walensky told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the CDC is working hard with the government of India, where COVID-19 is infecting and killing record numbers of people and slamming the nation's hospitals.
"We've sent over 1,000 canisters of oxygen," she said. "We've sent over 15 million N95s. We're sending products to help the supply for manufacturing of vaccines for over 20 million vaccines."
The CDC, she added, has had collaborations with public officials in India over the past year, and has trained more than 10,000 infection control practitioners while offering to send CDC employees there to assist.
"They have actually preferred technical guidance remotely right now, but we're in close touch to see how other ways we can assist," she said.
Back in the United States, efforts are continuing to decrease the replication of the virus, because as the disease grows, variants will make it more likely that COVID could bypass current vaccines, she added.
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