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Fauci on COVID-19 vaccines: ‘As soon as it becomes available to you, have it’

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Thursday that Americans need not be picky about which COVID-19 vaccine they take once they’re made available.

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“When the vaccine gets by the (Food and Drug Administration) in an emergency use authorization and then, ultimately, hopefully, in an actual approval -- take the vaccine,” he said during an appearance Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show.

“This is a race … between the virus and getting vaccines into people. The longer one waits, not getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or a mutation.”

Fauci’s comments come as officials weigh authorizing emergency use of a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine created by Johnson & Johnson. Company officials said the drug proved to be 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. Previously, officials granted emergency use authorizations for two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, which proved to be about 95% effective.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Johnson & Johnson vaccine has ‘favorable safety profile,’ FDA briefing documents say

Fauci said Thursday that it’s essential people get vaccinated as soon as possible to hamper the mutation of the novel coronavirus. He noted that models suggest that the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, which first surfaced in the United Kingdom, appears to be on track to become the dominant strain nationwide by March.

“The vaccines that we’re distributing now clearly can take care of that particular strain,” Fauci said. “Other strains, or mutants, or variants as we call them, are coming up, but the major spread in the country right now -- the vaccine is good against it … even ones in which it might be somewhat less effective.”

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that COVID-19 cases are falling nationwide, although the United States still leads the world with the most infections reported.

As of Thursday afternoon, 28.3 million people nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19, causing over 507,000 deaths, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, 112.8 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, causing 2.5 million deaths.

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