US turning the corner on pandemic, says White House Covid-19 coordinator

A mobile vaccination site is set up in the Bronx in New York City, on May 7, 2021. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - The United States is turning the corner on the coronavirus pandemic and US health officials are now focused on getting more Americans vaccinated, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Sunday.

"I would say we are turning the corner," Mr Zients said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union".

The task now is to continue building confidence in vaccines and get enough Americans vaccinated to mitigate the spread of the virus and its variants, he said.

US health officials are on a full-court press to overcome vaccine hesitancy and make access to Covid-19 vaccines as easy as possible, aiming to meet President Joe Biden's goal of 70 per cent of Americans having at least one shot by the July 4 US Independence Day.

About 46 per cent of all Americans have received at least one coronavirus vaccine shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said another surge in coronavirus infections would be unlikely if the Biden goal is met or exceeded.

"The larger proportion of the population that's vaccinated, the less likelihood that in a season like the coming fall or winter you're going to see a significant surge," Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on NBC's "Meet the Press".

"That's the reason why vaccinations are so important. That's the wild card that we have now that we didn't have last fall or the last winter."

He added that there's "no doubt" the US has undercounted its number of deaths from Covid-19, which now stand at over 581,000.

But Dr Fauci opined that the 900,000 figure, based on a University of Washington analysis published on May 6, as "a bit more than I would have thought".

"Sometimes the models are right on line, sometimes they're a bit off," he said.

With the US vaccination pace slowing, Dr Fauci said using "trusted messengers" will be an important way to overcome hesitancy in some communities and get the nation closer to an 80 per cent vaccination rate.

"It could be sports figures, it could be entertainment figures, it could be clergy or it could be your family doctor," he said.

He spoke hours after celebrities from Prince Harry to Jennifer Lopez appeared on a TV and streaming special about the importance of vaccines. President Biden and the first lady also recorded remarks for the event, as did Pope Francis.

The wider use of walk-in clinics or pharmacies is another major strategy to "get that last group of people who seem to be recalcitrant," Dr Fauci said, by making the process easier.

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