CNN  — 

If states are able to “diligently vaccinate” people against the coronavirus next year, the US could return to normal life by early fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday in an Facebook interview with California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Although the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is off to a much slower start than expected, if the US is able to catch up, widespread vaccination could be possible beginning in April, said Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Government officials had initially promised at least 20 million vaccine doses would be administered by the end of December, but just days away from the end of the year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows about 12.4 million doses have been distributed and nearly 2.8 million have been administered.

“Let’s say in April, it will be what I call open season, namely, anybody who wants to get vaccinated can get vaccinated,” Fauci said in the Facebook interview. “If we then diligently vaccinate people in April, May, June, July, then we will gradually and noticeably get a degree of protection approaching herd immunity.”

Fauci has estimated that herd immunity – where enough people have antibodies to diminish the spread of the virus – could likely be achieved if about 70% to 85% of the population gets vaccinated.

“By the time we get to the early fall, we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality – schools, theaters, sports events, restaurants,” he said. “I believe if we do it correctly, we will be there by the early fall.”

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said vaccinations will have to increase to more than 1 million per day.

It’s doable, he said, but, “Do we have the health system to do that? I’m not certain.”

He said the federal government needs to step up and states need to get funding for the administering of the vaccines.

Trump administration officials told CNN that vaccine distribution is on track and blamed the gap on a lag in reporting data.

Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir said he expects distribution to ramp up soon and that the US is on track to distribute 20 million vaccine doses by the first week of January.

“Of course, we need to be doing a better job, but all vaccine programs start somewhat slow,” Giroir told CNN’s Jake Tapper. He expects 30 million more doses to be distributed in January and potentially up to 50 million more in February. Both of the vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.

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