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Why Biden believes the U.S. could vaccinate 1M or more people per day in 3 weeks

Yale Professor of Radiology and Public Health Dr. Howard Forman joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down why Biden believes by summer we should be on our way to her immunity.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: And Dr. Foreman, great to speak with you once again. The news from Moderna that we just heard from Anjalee coming out on the heels of the Biden administration looking to substantially boost vaccinations. We just got a couple of headlines from President Biden, speaking moments ago. And he was telling us that that 100-day goal of vaccinations may rise to 150 million, instead of his initial goal of 100 million. He also went on to say that by this summer, we should be well on our way to herd immunity.

I'm curious just to get your thoughts on those comments that we just heard from President Biden and also what we've heard from his administration so far in terms of their plan to mitigate and address the spread of COVID.

HOWARD FORMAN: Yeah, so first, thanks for having me on. I just want to point out that we should be production limited. We shouldn't be limited by logistics and distribution. So if Moderna and Pfizer are able to give us 60 to 90 million doses a month, we should be vaccinating 60 to 90 million arms a month.

And obviously, those are two doses for individuals, but still, to be able to get 150 million shots in arms over a 100-day period seems like a very, very reasonable target for us to have, notwithstanding the fact that we also think that Johnson & Johnson should come up for an EUA in probably two to three weeks. And that will expand our capacity even more. So I continue to think that 150 million shots over 100 days should still be a low bar, not a high bar.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Dr. Forman, thank you for bringing up logistics. And forgive my humor here, but it was Leonard McCoy, the Star Trek doctor, who said the bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe. Have you gone to one of these ridiculous sign-up sites? New York's is a nightmare of chaos. Does the Biden proposal cut through all of this bureaucratic fraud to make it simpler to register for a shot?

HOWARD FORMAN: Well, certainly, the last COVID bill and the proposals from the Biden administration speak to dramatically improving the resources provided to the states and encouraging the states to be able to handle this. I agree with you. I'm in Connecticut, where we've done relatively better. But I still talk to people that are just despondent about either not getting an appointment or having an appointment canceled.

I've talked to people in New York that have had similar experiences, I think New York being vastly more complicated to begin with. But I think they're getting a hold of it. I like the fact that New York has a 24 by 7 number to call, but I'm hearing that people really are challenged to get through. So we're hoping to see more success there.

I just, right before we came on here, got a very positive anecdotal text from a friend who said that his, I think, 90-year-old mother got a spontaneous phone call from a local pharmacy saying that they're going to come up and do homebound vaccinations for those individuals that are not easy to get out of the home. And they just showed up and vaccinated her already.

So those are very favorable signs. I want to see more of them. I want to see us be able to absolutely finish up the 1A and 1B vaccination, so that we could start to see what we're going to do in 1C and beyond.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Dr. Forman, I know that you're really optimistic about the long term outlook of vaccinations. We just saw the goalpost move a little bit further when it comes to the million per day, three weeks versus what I think was supposed to be about a week, week and a half ramp-up. So clearly, they're finding some problems, the administration, with the procedure of distribution. We still don't have clarity on what those hurdles are. Where does this optimism come from? And how do you think we're going to get to the point of having all these vaccinations?

HOWARD FORMAN: Look, I thought it was a step in the right direction, that Dr. Walensky, over the weekend, admitted that even a couple of days into her official tenure, she still didn't even know how many vaccines we have control of at the federal level. Like, just having that level of transparency, even with negative information, is a step forward.

I'm confident-- and maybe I shouldn't be, but I'm confident that Moderna and Pfizer and even Johnson & Johnson, once they get into a rhythm, are going to deliver on their promises for vaccines. And then it's up to the federal government and the state governments to be able to get it out as quickly as possible into arms. I've talked to various state governments, and they've told me that they've been promised not this week, but that next week, they're going to be getting an increase in their allocations.

That gives me a lot of hope. I'm watching various states and municipalities put in place their vaccination programs in ways that, early on, would have seemed almost too optimistic. And I'm seeing them pulling it off right now. And so, I really am very optimistic about the vaccine programs. Unless some type of major hurdle presents itself, I think being able to get 150 or even 200 million vaccines into arms in the next 100 days is very realistic. And my personal goal is that every person who wants a vaccine should have a vaccine by the first day of summer.

SEANA SMITH: So every person that wants to get a vaccine will be able to get one by the summer. That's your goal. But that, of course, points to the fact that not everyone wants to get a vaccine. There's still some hesitation out there. And I know you've talked a lot about this in the past, but I'm curious just what you think the role health professionals like yourself can play, just in terms of getting that message out there and increasing the trust that a lot of people have or a lot of people don't have at this point for the vaccine.

HOWARD FORMAN: Yeah, absolutely. Look, I'm 19 days out from my second dose right now. I joke with people that I feel like I'm just sweating antibodies right now. We need to get people to be spokespersons for the vaccine movement to be able to show people that it's safe, that it starts to breed confidence in all of us. I was able to visit my parents over the weekend after doing multiple tests and also after knowing that they had been vaccinated a week earlier for their first shot.

But it still gave me the confidence to start to get closer to what normal life is like. We got to be able to demonstrate that to people. We also have to be able to be respectful of the fact that those individuals with lower incomes, who are low wage workers, who count on daily per diem work for their livelihood, we need to be able to figure out a way for the federal government to subsidize sick days for those individuals.

Because in many cases, they will need a half a day or a day off from work. And they shouldn't have to worry about putting food on the table because they've decided to get vaccinated. So there are lots of things that we can do to reduce hesitancy. And there are pieces that the federal government, the state government, employers can do, and there are also pieces that we individually, as members of the health care professional community can do, to make people more aware of the safety of these vaccination programs.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Dr. Forman, I know that we've been talking about these variants coming out. And we know that the UK is here and is spreading, going to be likely the predominant strain by March, according to the CDC. And we've already talked about how, despite getting the vaccine, individuals like yourself and everyone else is going to have to keep participating in mitigation practices and tactics.

So, looking forward, do we expect that despite this, just sort of how we saw out in California also another strain pop up, that we're going to continue seeing these very virulent strains, despite the fact that the vaccinations are already underway? Is that something we also have to worry about for a year or so?

HOWARD FORMAN: Look, we're going to learn a lot over the next few months. Israel, in particular, is going to provide us with a tremendous amount of information. They have 11% of the population now with two doses in them, and about 20% more or maybe 25% more with just one dose in them. We're going to start learning a lot about how much this mitigates. The evidence so far from Israel is very, very favorable. If we can maintain that level of evidence coming in, showing us that severe disease becomes a thing of the past in individuals who have had two vaccinations, we're going to be able to resume more normal life.

We're telling people right now to continue to mask up, continue to social distance even though you've been vaccinated, because we don't have enough information to give them other directions. But I do think over the next one month, two months, three months, we will have more information. And we'll be able to allow people to resume a more normal life. And certainly, the moves by Moderna today, the moves by the Biden administration today, and the fact that we're starting to genotype much more, gives me a lot of hope that we're going to get ahead of this, as opposed to being behind it, as we have been for the last 11 months.