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the coronavirus crisis

Former FDA chief predicts states will make COVID-19 vaccines 'generally available' by April

One of the major challenges the United States is facing in its COVID-19 vaccine drive is the fact that demand is outstripping supply, but Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb thinks that will flip suddenly and "sooner than we think."

In an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box on Monday, Gottlieb noted that vaccine production is ramping up — about 220 million doses will be put into the market by the end of March, and another 100 million will be made available in April. Those numbers will be higher if the FDA soon authorizes Johnson & Johnson's candidate for emergency use, as Gottlieb expects.

By that point, he said, states will likely have to make the shots "generally available" because a shrinking, but still significant reluctance to get vaccinated among the American public means there won't be enough takers if only specific groups of people have access. "If we continue to ration it based on more and more narrow slices of the population, it's going to get harder to administer. So, I think we're just going to have to open this up to general availability, which is good news," he said, pinpointing the end of March and "certainly" April as target dates.

Gottlieb cautioned that doesn't mean everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by April 1, but he does think most people will be able to schedule an appointment. Tim O'Donnell