Houston doctor explains possible timeline for end to pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- COVID-19 has changed the lives of almost everyone around the world, and many are wondering when the pandemic will end.

The answer to that depends partly on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. In the U.S., new shipments of doses are sent to states almost weekly, but many local leaders have said demand still far outpaces supply.

In Texas, lack of a statewide distribution plan is making it hard for many people who currently qualify under the state's Phase 1A and 1B criteria to find access to it, according to vaccine data and interviews with residents.

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Memorial Hermann in Houston said it has the capacity to vaccinate more people than the amount of doses it's receiving. If more vaccines are approved, that will help big time.

"We need more supply to come in, so if AstraZeneca is able to double Texas' monthly supply, that's fantastic. That just means we can reach more and more and more people," said Dr. James McCarthy, Executive Vice President and Chief Physicians Executive at Memorial Hermann.

Johnson & Johnson also has a COVID-19 vaccine in production, which could be a game changer since it only requires one dose compared to Pfizer and Moderna.

As for a timeline on the end to all the suffering, McCarthy said it all depends on if we get more vaccines, if they're effective against variants and mutations, and if people choose to get vaccinated.

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Currently, those who qualify under Phase 1A and 1B to receive the vaccine include health care workers, people over the age of 65, and people 16 and older with certain health conditions. The next group who will be able to receive the vaccine includes essential workers.

"We've got to get teachers. We've got to get restaurant workers. We've got to get public transportation folks. We've got to get civil servant folks," said McCarthy.

He said if things all go well, we could see those essential workers getting vaccinated in April. The general population could get their dose in June or July, and by the fall, things could return to normal.

"I think by October, November, there's a good chance that a lot of things could sort of be normalized compared to what they're doing now, but it's not going to be here by the summer. The summer is still going to have lots of masks, social distancing," said McCarthy.

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