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COVID Vaccine Comes With a Big Warning From Azar

"This is not the end of our battle against COVID," the Health and Human Services secretary said.
Alex azar health secretary

As the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine rolled out on Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called it an "extraordinary medical achievement" but had a big warning for Americans this holiday season. The two-dose vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was approved by the FDA last Friday. "At 95% efficacy this vaccine is extraordinary at protecting you from the virus," said Azar at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. "Getting vaccinated will help keep you, your family and your country safe." However, Azar warned that Americans need to continue practicing public-health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

"Please, get the vaccine"—and continue to follow public health measures, he said

The vaccine represents the light at the end of the tunnel but the pandemic is not over yet. You still need to wash your hands, maintain social distancing, avoid crowds, etc. "We need you to be vigilant, we need you to do that because we want everybody who is here now to be here next year for the holiday season," said Azar. "Now is not the time to let our guard down. This is not the end of our battle against COVID but today marks a critical milestone in the ultimate defeat of COVID-19."

That caution is necessary because it will be months before the average American will be able to get vaccinated, which happens in two doses two weeks apart. First in line for the current limited supply are healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

Earlier that morning on the Today show, Azar practically begged Americans to get vaccinated when they're able.

"If you are recommended to get it, and it's available to you—oh, please do get it," he said. "Protect yourself and protect those around you. But please, get the vaccine."

Azar said he hoped the government could administer 100 million vaccines by February, at which point anyone who wants to be vaccinated could obtain it as easily as a flu shot.

But he said Americans need to "act responsibly" in the meantime.

"We've got these vaccines coming to you—I want you to be there to get these vaccines," he said. "I want you to be there. I want next year's Christmas and holidays—I want everyone in your family to be there. So please be careful over the next several weeks, be very careful."

So far, the U.S. has recorded 16 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 300,000 related deaths.

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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