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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

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.