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The U.S. should start seeing a "significant decrease" in COVID-19 mortality by the end of January, as the most at-risk populations are vaccinated, Moncef Slaoui, the top scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

The big picture: Slaoui noted that "between 40–50% of all deaths" have been elderly people in nursing homes, who along with health care workers should be fully immunized "by the end of the month of December or by the middle of the month of January."

  • "I'm hopeful by the end of all the month of January we should already see quite a significant decrease in the mortality and severe morbidity associated in the elderly population," he added.

By the numbers: More than 270,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S., according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. 101,190 people are currently hospitalized with it.

Worth noting: Slaoui called Biden's plan to ask Americans to wear a mask for his first 100 days in office "a good idea."

  • "It's never too late. ... We have a light at the end of the tunnel, but we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June, so we need to be very cautious and vigilant," Slaoui said.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

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.