Herd immunity by September 'an ambitious goal': Dr. Vivek Murthy

George Stephanopoulos interviews surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy on "This Week."
7:40 | 01/24/21

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Transcript for Herd immunity by September 'an ambitious goal': Dr. Vivek Murthy
Our plan starts with an effective and safe vaccination campaign to meet our goal of administering 100 million shots in our first 100 days in office. Is that high enough? That's basically where the U.S. Is right now. When I announced it y'all said it's not possible. Come on, give me a break. Good start. 100 million. Joe Biden bristled a bit when asked if his vaccine plan is ambitious enough. But there are big questions going forward as the covid death toll threatens to climb past 600,000 in the coming months. Here to answer some of the questions, the president's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Thank you for joining us this morning. Let's talk about that goal for 100 million vaccines in 100 days. Can we do better, will we do better? Thanks, George, it's great to be with you today. As president Biden has said, he set a goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, that's a floor, it's not a ceiling, it's also a goal that reflects the realities of what we face. I think president Biden fully understands there's a larger goal here, as we all do, that we need to vaccinate as many Americans as possible. That's going to take a lot of work, working on the distribution channel. And some of the vaccine plan he announced over the last week is intended to achieve. Are there ways to increase the supply, number one, and number two, on the distribution, it appears at least in these first vaccines that have gone out, they've been going to largely wealthier areas of the country, ways to get more equitable distribution and increase the supply? It's the right question, George, because success has to be gauged not just by the number of vaccines we deliver but also by how fairly we deliver those vaccines, how equitably we we already know from the covid crisis over the year, some communities have been harder hit. Rural areas having a harder time getting access to the vaccines and seniors have struggled. Especially those in long-term facilities. And what we've got to do is not only increase supply, which we can do using the defense production act, but we've also got to set up the kind of distribution channels like mobile units, like strategically placed vaccination centers that can reach people. Who traditionally are hard to reach and don't have access to health care. Lastly, George, we got to track our progress, we got to make sure we have data on where the vaccine is being administered, to ensure that it's in in fact being distributed. How about the next vaccine the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, is that close to approval? We're hopeful we'll get good news on that on that front. The truth is, the more vaccine we have in terms of option and supply, more quickly we'll be able to vaccinate the country. We focus and plan for what we have right now. You know, the goal of achieving 100 million shots in 100 days is one that's achievable with the supply that we have and that we're anticipating from pfizer and from moderna, and that's what we got to focus on. So we hope for the best, but we have to plan for the situation we have now. I want to ask you about this variant of the covid that's now in the United Kingdom, at least 20 states say it's here now as well, the British prime minister borijohn said this week, there's evidence that it's more deadly than other strains. I'm glad you're bringing this up, George, because variants are very concerning, but they're not surprising, because this is what viruses do, they mutate, they change, and we should expect that. But here's what we know, we know that not only the uk variant, the south African variant, the Brazilian variant, are likely to be more transmissable and while there's some early data that the uk variant may in fact be more deadly we still need more data to clearly understand the answer to that question. But here's a larger lesson on the variants, they're really a shot across the bow, the virus is telling us it's going to continue to change and we've got to be ready for it. What does that mean? It means, we need to much better genomic surveillance, we need to double-down on public health measures. Like masking and avoiding indoor gatherings. It also means investing more in treatment strategies, really important. And above all, this means, we've got to invest a lot more in testing and in contact tracing, because these also are going to be essential. We're in a race against these variants. The virus is going to change. It's up to us to adapt and stay ahead. Are you confident that we can meet president Biden's other goal of getting most elementary schools open in a hundred days? That's very important goal. I'll tell you as a parent who has two young children, one of whom is trying to do virtual learning because his school is not open, we're all struggling with that, I know how critical it is for schools to get open for parents, for the economy, all of us, it's going to take a lot of work, we got to focus, number one, on getting clear guidance to schools. Number two, make schools have the resources to be able to reopen and take these measures. Keep in mind, George, that each and every day, we have teachers across the country who are reaching into their pocket to find a few dollars to pay for supplies for their kids, they don't have money to pay for the safety provisions. We've got to get them the resources. If we get them the resources and the guidance, I do think we can get on a path to reopening schools more safely and but also getting the number of cases down. That's where we all come in. Achieving these goals, turning covid around is a goal we have to undertake together as one nation and even if we do that, I'm confident we can turn this pandemic around. Can we get to herd immunity before the next school year begins in September? Well, I think that's an ambitious goal. I think we can see improvement. I think we can see a reduction in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. I think we can see many more people immunized. What's important here is, to recognize the more people we vaccinate the better we'll do, fewer outbreaks we'll see, the sooner we can get back to our way of life. That's what we got to focus on right now. That means that each and every one of us has to think about how we can disspell misinformation. Make sure or family and our friends have the right information. As soon as possible, when categories are open to us that we make an appointment and go get vaccinated ourselves. If we do these things and we continue to taking the safety precautions like masking and avoiding indoor gatherings, we can be on the path on not only turning it around, but schools back open and regaining our way of life. Dr. Murthy, thank you for your time this morning. Thanks so much, George. Good to be with you. Nate silver and our roundtable are coming up.

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

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