CDC projects coronavirus cases in U.S. will fall sharply by end of July

The Centers for Disease Control is now projecting COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. will fall sharply by the end of July. Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, joined CBSN's Tanya Rivero with more on the president's new goals for vaccinating Americans.

Video Transcript

TANYA RIVERO: The CDC is now projecting that coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the US will fall sharply by the end of July. This comes as President Biden is setting ambitious new goals to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus. He wants 70% of adults in the US to have received at least one shot by July 4. That number currently stands at just over 56%. CBS News' Skyler Henry reports from the White House with more on the new goals and new measures that could make it easier to get vaccinated.

JOE BIDEN: Now, we're going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager.

SKYLER HENRY: President Biden admits that vaccine hesitancy is the biggest stumbling block to achieving his goal of 160 million fully vaccinated Americans by the 4th of July. The administration is offering walk-in appointments at local pharmacies and expanding pop-up clinics to make it easier to get a shot.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: We have vaccine available to 90% of the population within five miles of where they live. But we need to actually do more than that, because some people can't get to five miles.

SKYLER HENRY: And they'll be offering incentives for people to get vaccinated as well. Sports leagues like NASCAR, NFL, MLB, Major League Soccer are also joining the effort by offering ticket giveaways, in-stadium vaccination programs, and discounts on merchandise.

In addition to changing where people get vaccinated, the administration is also revising how it allocates vaccines to the states. 25 states are not currently ordering all of the vaccine doses available to them because of lower demand. And Arkansas didn't order any new doses last week. Now, the government will be shifting those unused doses to places with more demand.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Although we are seeing progress in terms of decreased cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, variants are a wild card that could reverse the progress we have made and could set us back.

SKYLER HENRY: The CDC is warning of a possible surge in cases due to the new coronavirus strains, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates. Skyler Henry, CBS News, the White House.

TANYA RIVERO: For more on this, I want to bring in Dr. William Schaffner. He's a Professor of Preventative Medicine in the Department of Health Policy and a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Doctor, welcome. Great to have you with us.

So what do you make of President Biden's new vaccine goals? How ambitious are they? And do you think we can achieve them by July 4?

WILLIAM SHAFFNER: I will tell you, they are both ambitious and appropriate. You know, the eager beavers have come forward to be vaccinated. I'm fully vaccinated, for example. But many other people are still hesitant or really very reluctant to get vaccinated.

We're going to have to reach out to them. Some people are in locations where it's difficult to access the vaccine. We have to bring the vaccine to them. And all the programs just described are designed to do that-- to bring the vaccine closer to the people, make it more accessible.

And then we're also trying to be more persuasive, comforting, and reassuring to let people know that getting vaccinated is good not only for them, but for their families and their communities. So we want to push hard. Now, 70% of the adults vaccinated by July 4, that's ambitious-- but you need goals to work hard toward.

And I hope we all join in and are more successful than that. The more people vaccinated, the fewer people who will get infected, the fewer people will wind up in the hospital.

TANYA RIVERO: Absolutely, doctor. You're fully vaccinated. I'm now fully vaccinated. And just the sense of relief is tremendous when you get that second shot. So, doctor, we are also awaiting a decision from the FDA that could come as early as next week on using Pfizer's vaccine in adolescents ages 12 to 15.

How quickly do you think this could happen? And what impact do you think vaccinating this age group could have?

WILLIAM SHAFFNER: Well, this could happen very, very quickly. First, the FDA will give its approval, and then the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will address this issue right there after. And I would anticipate they're going to give it a vigorous and enthusiastic thumbs up. So within two weeks, we could start seeing vaccination efforts reach out to these older adolescents.

And we could see, then, as a consequence, schools opening in the fall, not only with all the adults vaccinated, but with, certainly, the older children in school vaccinated. That should make all the parents smile. The students may not be so happy about getting that dose, but it's worth it, believe me.

Even young children can get seriously ill from this illness. We want to protect them from getting sick at all and to help making communities safer.

TANYA RIVERO: Absolutely. And do you think that once a large-ish population among the younger-- the 12 to 15 set-- is vaccinated, that that can really bring the country to herd immunity?

WILLIAM SHAFFNER: Well, we certainly would hope so. You know, we think about 80% of the population needs to be protected before we get to herd immunity, which just means that the virus has a very hard time finding new people to infect. And by the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall, we may well see that even younger children, grade school children, and preschoolers are eligible for a vaccination.

That could bring the total proportion of people vaccinated in our country up to 80% or even more. And then we could securely put that mask aside and go back to new normal activities. And wouldn't that be wonderful?

TANYA RIVERO: And indeed, it would be wonderful, doctor. I also want to ask you about the situation in India that is so dire. The virus is on average killing about 120 people every hour. You know, there also are some cases rising in different parts of Europe.

Now, of course, our hearts break for all of these countries and what they're going through. And of course, we should be sending them aid just in a purely humanitarian effort. But should we also be worried about what could happen here in the US based on what we're seeing overseas?

WILLIAM SHAFFNER: So there are two reasons-- large reasons-- for us to be interested in what's happening around the world and in India in particular right now. The first is exactly as you say-- we are good people. We would like to help people around the world. That's a humanitarian interest.

But there's also self-interest. Remember, the more the virus multiplies anywhere, the more likely it is to mutate. The more likely it is to mutate, the more likely we are to find new variants out there, some of which could evade our vaccines. And so in our own self-interest, those variants could come back to the United States.

So we want to tamp down this virus throughout the world, make the occurrence of variants much less likely in order to protect our own population. If we have new variants that evade our vaccines, we'll need second generation vaccines, and we'll have to vaccinate all of ourselves all over again. We can prevent that by helping India and other countries in the world tamp down their infections right now.

TANYA RIVERO: Dr. William Schaffner, thank you so much for joining us. As always, we appreciate your medical insight.

WILLIAM SHAFFNER: My pleasure.