IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

FDA head stresses importance of getting COVID-19 vaccine: 'We need to get to herd immunity'

Dr. Stephen Hahn also addressed concerns over reports of two severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine in the United Kingdom.
/ Source: TODAY

The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration says reports indicating the public may be hesitant to take an approved COVID-19 vaccine are "concerning" to him because of the need to reach herd immunity to stop the pandemic.

Dr. Stephen Hahn spoke with Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday, the day the outside advisory panel for the FDA meets to decide whether or not to recommend Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization.

Hahn responded to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday indicating 41% of Americans said they would want to wait a few months to get a vaccine after it's been approved.

"It is concerning to me and that's because when it's appropriate medically ... it's really important that people carefully consider their decision," he said.

"We need to get to herd immunity and that requires a substantial percentage of Americans to be vaccinated, so that's why we've been transparent, it's why we want this public discussion of the data, it's why we've been very careful about the review of the data, and we'll make a very careful decision, understanding of course the importance of the situation and the urgency of the situation."

Health experts have said that 75% to 85% of the country will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, which is when enough people are immune to COVID-19 that it won't continue to spread if someone gets sick with it.

The virus continued to surge across the country, with a record 222,994 cases and 3,103 deaths reported Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally.

Hahn also addressed questions about who should not get the vaccine after the United Kingdom's Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency warned Wednesday that people with significant allergies should not take the Pfizer version.

The agency is investigating two incidents of adverse reactions suffered by healthcare workers after Britain became the first country in the world to start vaccinating healthcare workers and the elderly with the Pfizer version on Wednesday.

Hahn was asked if the FDA would issue a similar advisory to those with allergies if the Pfizer vaccine gains emergency approval in the next few days.

"It is possible," he said. "We're working with our U.K. partners now to understand exactly what happened with respect to those reactions. We take this seriously.

"It's one of the reasons that we at the FDA do such a careful review line by line of the patient data is because our label around the vaccine will not just say who should get it, but who should not receive the vaccine."