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HHS Secretary anticipates COVID vaccine will reach general public by second quarter of 2021

"The governors will determine distribution within their states, prioritization within their states, where to ship to," said Alex Azar.

Updated: November 29, 2020 - 7:21am

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said states will decide the "prioritized groups" as the first recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine but he expects the inoculations to reach the general public by the second quarter of next year. 

Azar said his department is currently working on recommendations for prioritization. 

"We have not announced recommended prioritization," Azar said during a news conference on Tuesday. "We talked about some core groups that make fairly obvious sense. Those of course are those in nursing homes, as you've mentioned, our most vulnerable citizens, our health care workers who are on the front lines, our first responders, those are some of the broad groups we've talked about."

Azar said the "most vulnerable" Americans would likely receive the vaccine by the end of December and officials believe there will be "enough to vaccinate our senior citizens as well as our health care workers and first responders" by the end of January.

"If all goes well, we could be distributing vaccine soon after December 10," he said. "We believe we can distribute vaccine to all 64 jurisdictions within 24 hours of FDA authorization. Then we hope administration can begin as soon as the product arrives."

Azar said that health officials anticipate that any member of the general public would be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the "second quarter of next year" but that's a "constant progression."

"The governors will determine distribution within their states, prioritization within their states, where to ship to," he said. 

Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said he is feels "confident" that 40 million doses of the vaccine would be distributed before the end of 2020.

"Yes, 40 million by the end of the year," he said.

Addressing Americans hesitant to take the vaccine, Azar said, "I will get myself vaccinated as soon I will be allowed to be vaccinated to demonstrate to the American people my complete confidence in the independence and the integrity of the quality of any vaccine I would make available to the American people."

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