WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, White House officials say a vaccine could be here by the holidays.

“We could literally be seeing authorization within weeks,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday.

Azar said as soon as the FDA grants emergency approval, “we’re ready to ship millions of doses of that vaccine within 24 hours out to the American people.”

Azar said 40 million doses could be available by the end of the year.

“So that’s two shots per person. So that would be 20 million people, we believe, could be vaccinated by the end of December,” he said.

The vaccine is expected to go first to health care workers, the elderly and essential workers. Initial results show the vaccine to be 95% effective in preventing infections.

The White House on Friday celebrated the work of “Operation Warp Speed” for the pace of the vaccine creation.

“The beginning of the end of the pandemic started with the leadership of President Trump,” Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

“What I am doing here is a very big thing,” President Donald Trump added.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Americans to continue taking precautions against the virus like wearing masks and social distancing. She also pressed Republican leadership to pass her proposal for a COVID relief bill.

“If we do what is in the HEROES Act in this regard, we’ll be ready for the vaccine to have a big effect right from the start,” Pelosi said.

With production plans to continue throughout the winter, Azar said the vaccine could be available for free to all Americans by this spring.

“Hope and help are on the way,” he added.