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Fauci says it could be 'open season' by April for those who want to get vaccine

Long Islanders submitted more than 2,000 questions to

Long Islanders submitted more than 2,000 questions to Dr. Anthony Fauci. He couldn't answer all of them, but he did answer a number about coronavirus vaccines and what we should expect. Sign up for COVID-19 text alerts at newsday.com/text. Credit: Newsday studio

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, told Newsday that the general public could have access to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as April — if the rollout speeds up in the coming weeks.

Fauci said in an exclusive interview Monday that he hopes vaccinations of health care workers and other priority groups taking place now and in the coming weeks will be completed by the end of March.

"We hope that by the time we get to the end of March, the beginning of April, that we'll be at the point where the priority groups have already been vaccinated and it's what I would call open season," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the interview with Newsday anchor Faith Jessie and editorial board member Randi Marshall.

"I think by the time we get to April, we will be at that point where a normal man or woman who has no underlying condition and no reason to be at a high risk, can get vaccinated if they want to," Fauci added.

When asked Monday evening if New York is poised to meet that timeline, the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declined to comment.

Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer at New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, said beginning to vaccinate the general public by April is "not unreasonable, but it is dependent on the supply chain. That's the one thing we do not control." Battinelli added that Northwell expects to have all of its health care workers inoculated by late February.

Fauci said while the slow rollout of vaccines is likely tied to the holiday season, officials at all levels of government need to do better in coordinating this complex task.

More than 15.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed across the U.S., and about 4.5 million people had received their first dose as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a far drop from the ambitious 20 million the federal government had hoped would be administered by the end of 2020.

New York has received 895,925 doses, and 274,713 people in the state have received their first dose, according to the CDC. Many New Yorkers got their second and final dose Monday.

To see all of Fauci's in-depth talk and his answers to questions from Long Islanders about the safety and protections of the vaccines, go to newsday.com/fauci to register for this Newsday Live event, which starts at noon on Tuesday.

With Yancey Roy

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