Watch: Ashish Jha on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine news

The Monday morning announcement from Cambridge-based Moderna that the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing appears to be 94.5% effective is “very good news,” according to Dr. Ashish Jha. 

Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, appeared on CBS This Morning to provide insight into what the news, which follows a week after Pfizer gave a similar update on their vaccine’s progress, means as the pandemic continues to rage. 

“We are entering the hardest time of the pandemic,” Jha told the network Monday. “I think the next two or three months are going to be awful across the country. But [what] the Pfizer vaccine [and the] Moderna vaccine do is give us hope that in a few months, this will really start turning around. The light at the end of the tunnel just got a little bit brighter.”

The doctor stressed that there are still logistical and “complicated” issues that need to be addressed as the work continues toward a rollout of a vaccine. 

“We’ve got to get tens of millions of vaccines out to states, to pharmacies, doctors offices,” he said. “That needs a lot of planning. There has not been a lot of that planning out of the federal government right now. There’s been some, but we need a lot more of that.”

Jha cautioned that even with the promising news on the vaccines being developed, it will be some time before things return to “normal.”

“Even if we had 10 or 20 million people getting vaccinated over the next few months, until we get to 50, 60 percent of the American population vaccinated — and that’s at best case scenario April/May  — I think we’re still some ways away from something that will be the new normal,” he said. 

And before it gets better, the country is facing a situation where the virus is going to get “meaningfully worse” in the coming weeks based on the current trends of new cases and hospitalizations, he said. 

“The bottom line is that hospitals are at capacity and they are still about to get a flood of new patients, so it’s going to be an even bigger wave of patients,” Jha said. “So I’m very worried about the next month. We know what we need to do. Everybody needs to wear a mask, we need to avoid any kind of indoor gathering. And then states have to do more on testing.”

Jha said every state needs to be following the lead of Michigan, which is instituting limits on indoor activities and other events for three weeks to stem the spread of COVID-19. The order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer includes moving high school and college classes online, closing indoor service at bars and restaurants, shuttering movie theaters and casinos, and pausing youth sports. 

What Michigan is doing is “absolutely essential,” Jha said. 

“It’s amazing to me that other states are not following,” he said. “I suspect that this week we are going to see a lot of other states step up and essentially put in very similar policies because we’re so behind the 8-ball. We’ve got to get going.”