Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is "concerned about" the rocky transition between presidential administrations potentially hindering the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine during a crucial period in the next few months.
President Donald Trump's administration has yet to share information in any capacity with President-elect Joe Biden's incoming team as Trump continues to contest election results that show a clear victory for Biden.
Meanwhile, drugmakers like Pfizer and Moderna have released promising test results concerning a potential COVID-19 vaccine, meaning the months ahead could involve the complicated process of rolling out life-saving vaccines amid a rocky transition between administrations.
"Obviously it's something that we're concerned about," Fauci told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Monday. "As you know I've served in six administrations, so I've seen a number of transitions, and I know that transitions are very important to get a smooth, as I use the metaphor, essentially passing a baton without stopping running. You just want things to go very smoothly so hopefully we'll see that soon. Transitions are important."
The coronavirus is surging across the country, with more than 1 million cases reported in the past week, including 12 straight days of more than 100,000 daily cases in the United States and more than 60,000 people hospitalized.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top White House task force member, projects that vaccine doses could be distributed by Pfizer and Moderna by the end of December to individuals at a particular high risk to COVID-19 if those companies secure emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
That crucial period in the next two months only heightens the importance of the transition between Trump and Biden's administration ahead of Biden's inauguration in January.
"The virus is not going to stop and call a timeout while things change, the virus is just going to keep going," he said. "This is something that just is now going in a very, very strong right direction. The vaccines are effective, we want to get it approved as quickly as we possibly can, we want to get doses to people starting in December and then we want to really get the ball rolling as we get into January, February and March.
"We want a smooth process with that, and the way you do that is by essentially having the two groups speak to each other and exchange information."
Fauci's comments came after Moderna reported Monday that early analysis from its phase 3 trial shows its COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective at preventing infection. Fauci believes the vaccine will get emergency approval from the FDA.
That positive news comes after Pfizer shared last week that early analysis of its vaccine showed it was more than 90% effective at preventing infection.
"We all anticipate it will," Fauci said about the Moderna vaccine's approval. "I don't want to get ahead of the FDA, but the data are striking.
"So now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective, so I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak."
Fauci added that it's "quite conceivable" that there could be numerous effective vaccines as other companies pursue a similar path to Pfizer and Moderna.
He also disagreed with comments made by Dr. Scott Atlas, a White House coronavirus task force member who tweeted Sunday for people in Michigan to "rise up" against new COVID-19 restrictions released by the state government, which he later clarified to say he meant peaceful protest and not violence.
"I totally disagree with it," Fauci said about Atlas' initial tweet. "I made no secret of that. I totally disagree with the stand he takes. I just do, period."
While the vaccine trials have been promising, Fauci urged people to remain vigilant against the spread of the illness by wearing masks, washing your hands, social distancing and staying away from crowds.
"The fact that help is on the way should spur us even more to double down on some of the public health measures to be able to use the combination of a vaccine and public health measures to turn this thing around," he said. "We can do it."