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Fauci: US near normal by end of 2021 if 75-80% get coronavirus vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci said widespread use of the vaccine is needed, but a new poll shows only about half of Americans definitely plan to get the shots.

The nation's preeminent infectious disease expert says the U.S. could return to something close to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic by the end of 2021 if about three-quarters of the country gets a COVID-19 vaccine. But a new poll shows that only about half of Americans are willing to get it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that Moderna's coronavirus vaccine is close to 100% effective in preventing the effects of COVID-19, but it's unclear if it will prevent future infection.

"What we don't know right now is the degree to which it prevents you from getting virologically infected," Fauci said in an interview with CNN's Sanjay Gupta from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Meanwhile, a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers will meet on Thursday to decide whether to allow emergency use of a Pfizer-made vaccine. That emergency authorization could happen in a matter of days, but with average Americans likely to not get it until spring.

Fauci said he believes the country can get close to normal life by the end of 2021 if 75-80% of the U.S. population is vaccinated.

"If we do that, I believe if we do it efficiently enough over the second quarter of 2021, by the time we get to the end of the summer, i.e. the third quarter, we may actually have enough herd immunity protecting our society that as we get to the end of 2021, we could approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before," Fauci said.

But whether that percentage of the population will get a vaccine remains to be seen. A new AP-NORC poll shows only about half of Americans plan to get the shots while one-quarter remain on the fence. Another quarter say they don't intend to get the vaccine for various reasons, including side effects.

A separate poll by Gallup put the number of Americans willing to get the vaccine higher at 63%.

Fauci said as new vaccines are rolled out, it will be important to remember that numerous versions will be available in the event unforeseen allergic reactions are experienced.

"If we do find out that there is a consistent issue of certain subset of people like those with allergic reactions, you'll always have other vaccine platforms that you can use," he said.

Fauci also cautioned that protective measures should continue as vaccinations are underway.

"Wearing a mask, physical distancing, avoiding crowds that should all stay as we get into the vaccine program because there's still a lot of virus out there," Fauci said.