The White House COVID-19 response team held a regularly-scheduled briefing on Monday, hours after AstraZeneca announced findings from a U.S.-based study that found the vaccine to be safe and effective for people of all ages.
The company said it will seek Emergency Use Authorization in the weeks ahead. Should the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant its approval, it will be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to be approved.
A fourth vaccine would add to an already-growing stockpile of vaccines, and would go a long way in helping the Biden administration reach its goal of creating enough vaccines so that every American can be fully vaccinated against the virus by the end of May.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is already approved for use in more than 50 countries.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's top medical adviser and the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, called the study "an important contribution to global health in general." While he said the findings were "encouraging," he added that the FDA still needed to grant authorization.
"The FDA will put a great deal of scrutiny in every aspect of this data," Fauci said.
Fauci also addressed potential skepticism surrounding the vaccine, considering that several European countries temporarily halted its distribution last week due to reports of abnormal blood clotting.
The EU's top medical advisory board later found that the vaccine had no link to the reports of clotting.
Fauci said Monday that according to the study released Monday, "there was no indication at all," that clotting occurred in any of the 30,000 participants.
Monday's briefing comes as the CDC reports that the decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations linked to the virus has stalled — a finding that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky called "concerning."
"I am worried that if we don't take the right actions now, we will see another avoidable surge," Walensky said.
She added that the CDC and health experts are holding weekly calls with state, territorial and tribal leaders, pleading them not to lift COVID-19 restrictions for the time being. Andy Slavitt, the top adviser to the COVID-19 response team coordinator, added that Americans should continue to wear masks, even if there is no mandate in place.
"Whether or not there's a mandate in place, it's in everyone's strong interest," Slavitt said.
Walensky also advised Americans to continue to avoid travel, despite TSA figures that show airport screenings are on the rise and reports from Miami that showed thousands of spring breakers packing bars and clubs against public health guidelines.
"We just don't want to be at this rapid uptick of cases," Walensky said. "...now is not the time to travel."
The briefing also comes several days after Fauci argued with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, during a Senate hearing last week about the use of masks.
While Paul incorrectly argued that there is “no science” behind health experts' recommendations that people continue to wear masks after vaccination or infection, Fauci pushed back, arguing that “masks are not theater, masks are protective."
The next day, Fauci told CBS News that Paul was “dead wrong.”
"Sen. Paul has this message that we don't need masks, which goes against just about everything we know about how to prevent spread of the virus," Fauci said. "He was saying if you've been infected, or you've been vaccinated, don't wear a mask — which is completely against all public health tenets."