Why all eyes will be on COVID-19 vaccine rollout this week

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the first of many COVID-19 vaccine doses are making their way to distribution sites across the United States, one of Houston's experts on vaccines and the coronavirus says all eyes are on this rollout.

"I think the key to remember is there's going to be a lot of stuff happening in this 24-hour news cycles and not to get too exercised about the ups and the downs," explained Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez spoke with ABC13 on Sunday afternoon for the first time since the Pfizer vaccine became approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

He said he is on the waiting list to receive his dose.

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"I'm excited that this is happening," he said. "I hope we can move quickly and [partly] because we've not had any national control strategy and what that means, practically speaking, is that it sort of backed us into a corner where we have nothing else to offer really with this extremely high level of transmission. If we had a national control program all year, we wouldn't have had this intense urgency to vaccine. Now we pretty much have to vaccinate our way out of this, and I think we will, but it's going to take a little bit of time."

Hotez said the two things doctors want a vaccine to do is keep people out of the hospital and keep people out of the ICU.

"If enough people get vaccinated, we could actually potentially stop transmission of the virus, which would be fantastic. It's a pretty high bar," he said.

Hotez adds a recent study shows that 60% to 80% of the population has to be vaccinated in order for that to happen.

"A lot of stars have to align," he said.

During the interview, Hotez recalled seeing a Tweet that resonated with him in which the vaccine development and distribution process was compared to the moon landing of 1969. It didn't just happen, he said. It took a multitude of programs and a strong collaborative effort.

"It's kind of that way with vaccines," Hotez said. "This was nothing quick and simple. This was long drawn-out process that has taken us to where we are."

He called this "the beginning" and said, "We're going to have other vaccines roll out and remember, it's not going to be a smooth ride. This is under such intense media scrutiny that any little bump that happens, it's going to be amplified."

Watch the full interview with Dr. Hotez in the video above.

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