Pfizer and Moderna ramping up coronavirus vaccine supplies

Pfizer and Moderna told lawmakers 140 million more vaccine doses will be available for shipment by the end of next month. Dr. Teresa Amato, the director of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, joins CBSN with more on how to prevent another surge.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: Two coronavirus vaccine makers are ramping up supplies. Pfizer and Moderna told lawmakers Tuesday they are aiming to provide the US with millions more doses by the end of next month. So far, more than 44 million Americans have received at least one shot, and nearly 20 million have received two. And as infection rates continue to fall, Nikki Battiste shows us there are more signs that life is slowly returning to normal.

NIKKI BATTISTE: Tonight, a turning point for New York City, which was the epicenter of the first deadly wave of COVID-19. Fans inside sports arenas for the first time in nearly a year.

- Feeling very emotional, very anxious. As excited as I am, I have no clue what to expect.

- If everybody's negative and they prove it, then it's kind of like a little bubble if you're going to a game.

NIKKI BATTISTE: At Brooklyn's Barclays Center, 300 people will be scattered in red-marked seats after getting negative COVID test results. Movie theaters are next up. They can open March 5th, despite the fact tonight, New York City says the more contagious UK variant is now found in nearly triple the number of new cases compared to January. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's worried about complacency, and warns masks may be necessary into 2022.

ANTHONY FAUCI: In order to be extra safe, we may have to be wearing masks under certain circumstances. I was not trying to scare people. I'm saying we've got to be prepared that variables are there, and we could get another surge.

NIKKI BATTISTE: Meanwhile, despite vaccine stumbling blocks, executives from the nation's leading COVID vaccine-makers signaled today a turnaround is coming.

- We are on track to make 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March.

- We are now targeting delivery of the second 100 million doses of our vaccine by the end of May.

NIKKI BATTISTE: In all, the drug makers say 140 million doses will be delivered just in the next five weeks. But there's vaccine disparity in communities that need them most, those who can't easily get to mega-sites or a local pharmacy. In Baltimore, a reality check.

- People don't understand. You don't have CVS stores and Giants over large sections of certain African-American communities. They don't exist.

NIKKI BATTISTE: The New York policy allows for 10% capacity in stadiums, so about 2,000 fans will be inside Madison Square Garden here tonight. They must have their temperatures checked and wear masks. Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO: Nikki Battiste, thank you. And Dr. Teresa Amato joins me now. She's the director of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills. Doctor, thank you very much for being with us. As we just heard, Dr. Fauci is warning of another surge. But we also saw more vaccines are on the way. How many Americans need to be vaccinated to feel confident that another surge can be prevented?

TERESA AMATO: So we've been talking about this idea of herd immunity, meaning, when are there going to be enough people that have the vaccine, plus people that have had COVID and have antibodies, that will protect other people from getting it? So we think that number is somewhere around 70% to 90% of Americans that will either have to have had vaccines or have antibodies to the virus. And so it is very-- it is very hopeful when you start to see the number of vaccines that are going to hopefully be making it onto the shelves and into people's arms over the next few weeks to months, with both of the largest suppliers really ramping up the amount of vaccine that's going to be available.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Doctor, some people who received shots are now reporting a rare condition called shoulder injury related to vaccine administration. What more can you tell us about this condition, and is it a cause for concern?

TERESA AMATO: So it's not unique to the COVID vaccine. So an injury to the shoulder related to a vaccine injection has to do with giving the vaccine incorrectly. So you have a muscle in your shoulder that kind of makes the curve of your shoulder, called your deltoid muscle, and that is the proper place for an injection to go, an intramuscular vaccine. If you were to administer it incorrectly and do it more high up into the shoulder itself, into the actual joint, you can cause some inflammation in there to the bursa, which would cause people to have some pain and difficulty in arranging the arm.

Luckily, this is a very rare occurrence. And again, this is not unique to the COVID vaccine. This is just placing it correctly with any vaccine. The good news is that even if someone were to get this unfortunate side effect, the vast majority of people do actually recover from it fully within a few days to weeks. But it could be something that would be painful. And again, difficulty moving the arm, exceedingly rare. It would really have to be someone injecting it into the wrong place.

ELAINE QUIJANO: OK. Well, the Biden administration is considering sending masks now directly to Americans. And as we look ahead to spring and warmer temperatures, Doctor, remind us again why mask wearing will remain important in the months ahead.

TERESA AMATO: So we're not completely sure yet what's going to happen with these variants. Again, every time the virus is transmitted, it has a chance to mutate again. So we are hopeful that the current vaccines will be effective for any variant that comes along. But we don't know that for sure. So the best way to try to prevent that is to try to prevent any transmission if at all possible. So I know people don't want to hear this, but I do think that we're going to have mask-wearing for a bit longer. I think that's the safest way to do it. And again, we really-- as these vaccines roll out and we really crush COVID, we really have to make sure that we don't let these variants get a hold and start another surge.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Now, people might not want to hear it, but it is the science that we know works, with respect to the virus and the variants. So the Biden administration is now providing millions of dollars to several organizations to help combat vaccine misinformation in communities of color. How is the coronavirus disproportionately impacting underserved communities, and what more needs to be done?

TERESA AMATO: So what we saw during the height of some of the pandemic was, there was definitely a disparity between mortality for people of color versus their white counterparts. So people of color were much more likely to have a very poor outcome from COVID. What we're seeing now with the vaccines is that, you know, you need three things to have a vaccine. You have to have the availability of the vaccine itself, you have to be able to access the site you're going to, and you have to think about hesitancy, or somebody not maybe not wanting to take the vaccine because they're not really sure about it.

So unfortunately, historically in this country, people of color have not been treated equally in health care. And quite frankly, there were very unethical studies done on people of color. So I can understand a hesitancy with a new vaccine. So it's imperative that we make sure that we reach out to all communities, make sure we're accessing medical staff that also resemble the community they're serving, to make sure that's diverse when you're putting out the information. But you know, you really have to think about that, for some people of color, I can understand the hesitancy. But we're really trying to just continue to educate, and continue to get people excited to get the vaccine.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, Dr. Teresa Amato. Doctor, thank you very much.

TERESA AMATO: Thank you for having me.