Fauci, other top health officials publicly receive first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, received the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, alongside other top Trump administration health officials. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and several frontline health workers also received doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which was developed with the NIH.

Fauci, 79, said he wanted being vaccinated to serve as "a symbol to the rest of the country that I feel extreme confidence in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine." Collins echoed Fauci’s confidence in the vaccine’s safety when he received his dose, calling the shot in his arm "no problem."

Top lawmakers also began receiving doses of the vaccine publicly, including President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in an effort to convince Americans that the vaccines are safe and effective against COVID-19.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks after Vice President Mike Pence received the COVID-19 vaccine in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18, 2020. (Photo by SAUL

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized two vaccines for emergency use this month in the U.S. 

The first, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, began arriving at hospitals and long-term care facilities last week and started being used. Moderna’s received approval Dec. 18 and also started arriving at sites nationwide.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Fauci told Good Morning America that he expects to start vaccinating the general population "somewhere in the end of March, the beginning of April."

He estimated that most Americans will have access to the new COVID-19 vaccines by mid-summer, adding that the process could take up to four months to reach all Americans who want to receive the vaccine.

Fauci reiterated his longstanding plea for Americans to curb their normal Christmas and holiday plans this year as the virus continues to surge all around the country. To date, more than 18 million people in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19 and nearly 320,000 people have died from the virus, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.