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Every American will be able to get a coronavirus vaccine by the second quarter of 2021, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in an interview for "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: As cases, hospitalizations and deaths keep climbing higher, a vaccine seems to be the only chance the U.S. will have to arrest this pandemic.

  • "My expectation is that next year we return to normalcy in our lives thanks to the incredible work of Operation Warp Speed and these vaccines, as well as the therapeutics," Azar told Axios' Mike Allen.

Reality check: A lot will have to go right in order to meet Azar's 2021 timeline, but it's not outside the realm of what experts see as realistic in a best-case scenario.

  • A vaccine hasn't even been authorized yet by the Food and Drug Administration, but assuming that happens soon, distributing it across the U.S. and the world will be an unprecedented logistical undertaking.
  • The two most effective vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, both require two shots — meaning they'd need to produce and distribute roughly 760 million doses, just within the U.S. and within the next six months, for every American to be get vaccinated by the end of the second quarter.

Azar said it's "my hope" that football stadiums will be packed next fall.

  • He also rejected the premise that the Trump administration's coronavirus response has been a debacle.
  • "We've saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives," he said, citing the administration's early actions, which have since largely been lifted as cases soared and deaths have continued to climb.
  • The U.S. death count is now over 280,000.

The interview airs tonight on "Axios on HBO," at 11pm ET/PT on all HBO platforms.

Go deeper

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.

Dave Lawler, author of World
32 mins ago - World

Alexey Navalny lands back in Moscow despite threat of arrest

Navalny during a march last February. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny returned to Moscow on Sunday, five months after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and despite being warned that he faced arrest upon his return.

Driving the news: Vnukovo airport — where Navalny was scheduled to land and a group of supporters had gathered — was closed to arriving aircraft shortly before his flight was set to land. He landed instead at Sheremetyevo airport. It's not yet clear whether he'll be allowed to leave the airport.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.