COVID-19 vaccines within reach as all 50 states see cases rising ahead of holidays

Vaccine makers have seen promising results from their clinical trials, but many are skeptical about their safety. ABC News speaks to a trial participant and the army general overseeing distribution.
7:16 | 11/25/20

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Transcript for COVID-19 vaccines within reach as all 50 states see cases rising ahead of holidays
When you sign up for a clinical trial, you put your body on the line for science. I really felt like that personal risk could lead to greater good. Reporter: Dr. Victoria Smith is one of the tens of thousands of volunteers at pfizer's clinical vaccine trial. Fighting at the front line of covi, she's seen the devastation firsthand. I know a patient who lost multiple family members. And so that just tears at my heart. There were many times when I really felt like a victim of what was going on. And I was watching patients being affected, wing the fear. And I just wanted to do something to be part of a solution. Reporter: As the covid-19 pandemic was spiraling out of control last spring, top government officials hatched a multibillion-dollar plan to develop and deliver a safe and effective vaccine in record time. Military-like precision called "Operation warp speed." Less than a year later, it's prompted breakthroughs in vaccines from biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Pfiz modern, astra Zina, all showing effectiveness in clinical trials. We're watching the process as the vaccines for both pfizer and modern have really gotten to an exciting stage. Reporter: My colleague Bob woodruff sat down with general Gus perneff, who after 37 years in the army was put in charge of overseeing the logistics of "Operation warp speed." It's going through the fda. The fda will go through their process, and hopefully they'll determine it's safe and effective and they'll award an eua, emergency use authorization. Reporter: He says pending fda authorization, the vaccine could be available as soon as mid-december. Me personally, I have to visualize things. Reporter: He tracks everything from his office in Washington, D.C. On a white board, mapping out the strategy and timing for vaccine delivery. He even has a nickname for the day vaccines are cleared to be distributed. D-day. So let's just say d-day is the 15th. Right? 24 hours later, vaccines a on the street, right? 24 hours, all it's going to take? Right. It's just a phone call about execution? Pfizer's first, I'll call pfizer, they'll begin distributing vaccines. It will go to 64 jurisdictions simultaneously. 50 states, 8 territories, 6 metropolitan cities. Reporter: Part of being prepared for distribution, making sure that states have the equipment necessary for the vaccines to be administered. These are called ancillary kits. These come with the vaccine. It's a lot of syringes, ot of needles, a lot of alcohol wipes. So what the federal government has decided to do, this is based off our experience during H1N1 about a decade ago, is centralize the building of kits that support that vaccine. Reporter: A CDC committee says it's likely the first round of vaccines in December will go to the nation's health care workers, and then eventually the elderly, as soon as March or April there could be enough vaccines approved to vaccinate all adults. Yet for some the very speed with which the vaccine is promised has example fired fears over its safety. The latest poll showing that 42% of Americans say they would not take the covid-19 vaccine if it was made available to the public. Once they get to 30% O 40% of people getting vaccinated, I think that alone will make a big difference in slowing down the pandemic. But that won't be enough. I think once we get to 60 plus, of our lives will be back. 70%, 80% vaccination, I think we're going to be in excellent Reporter: Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar, who's leading the charge in "Operation warp speed," told Bob woodruff with the independent fda approval process and each clinical trial requiring over 30,000 participants, vaccine safety is top priority. You would take this vaccine as soon as it's released? I will and have asked that I get vaccinated as soon as anybody will allow me to get vaccinated. People don't have that much trust. People are afraid this is not going to be good for them. What would you say to them? There is a question that people ask all the time. You moved so fast, so historically fast, did you cut corners? And the answer is, absolutely not. The key insight when I built "Operation warp speed" was putting the full financial power of the U.S. Government behind what is effectively a business This has never been done before like this. So what do you do? You say money is not an object here. You are limited only by science and physics. So we fund all that have development planning upfront. We literally move from one stage to the next within 24 hours these vaccine programs. Before bite take three, four, five months to move from one stage to the next. The second thing you derisk is manufacturing. A pharmaceutical company would never make commercial-scale, multimillion production lots of vaccine while they're still testing the vacci in early stages. We did just that, and we did it in redun Tant manufacturing systems. And because we can fund that. We're about to have a change, a new president. Is that going to change this process at all? It won't change anything about the process. Because we will ensure a professional, cooperative, effective transition. The individuals involved at the CDC, at the nih, fda, department of defense, HHS, are career people. They don't change. They're the same people on January 19th as they are on January 21st. And we will ensure continuity. By then, by the time of any transition, we believe many tens of millions of Americans will already have been vaccinated. And the mission of a next administration will be to simply not mess up what we've gotten going. Reporter: News of a vaccine came as the U.S. Recorded an unprecedented 3 million new covid cases just this month. Officials fear the upcomi Thanksgiving holiday could make things worse. CDC recommending Americans avoid traveling this year. Despite this, airports remain packed. Am very worried about the next four to six weeks. They're going to be the hardest period of our entire pandemic. And I'm very worried that hospitals are not going to be able to take care of everybody who needs care. That's the situation we're heading in. Reporter: Still, with a vaccine on the horizon, Dr. Smith is hopeful. I feel like in this we finally have some arms to actually fight back. I also am just concerned that people not L their guards down and know that this war is not over yet.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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