President Biden said Tuesday he wants at least 70% of U.S. adults to be partly vaccinated with one COVID-19 shot by July 4, the holiday he pinpointed as a starting point for normalcy after the globally disruptive pandemic.
Setting the latest target for his administration, Mr. Biden said he also wants 160 million adults to complete their vaccine regimens by Independence Day.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter,” Mr. Biden said at the White House. “Get vaccinated. In two months, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence from this virus.”
Reaching his targets will require nearly 100 million shots over the coming two months. That would be relatively simple under the current pace, which exceeds 2 million shots per day, but demand is slowing as states run out of enthusiastic recipients and resort to offering free drinks and other incentives to folks still on the sidelines.
“Soon we will have reached the adults who are most eager to get vaccinated,” Mr. Biden said.
Hoping to improve distribution efficiency, Mr. Biden is allowing states with high demand to tap into a federal reserve of extra doses from states that do not order their full population-based share in a given week.
He’s instructing tens of thousands of retail pharmacies in the federal vaccine program to offer walk-up appointments. And he wants grocery stores to offer discounts to people who come in to get vaccinated at their stores.
Mr. Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will shift its focus from mass vaccination sites to pop-up and mobile clinics, while rural health clinics will start to receive more doses to reach holdouts.
“It’s going to get more granular, I think,” Mr. Biden said.
Roughly 56% of U.S. adults, or 145 million people, and 45% of the overall population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 41% of adults, or 104 million people, and nearly a third of the overall population have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna versions or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
That’s quite good compared to other developed nations, and the campaign is starting to cut cases, hospitalizations and deaths. But scientists say at least 70% of the population must be fully vaccinated to drive down transmission rates and keep the virus from evolving into aggressive variants.
White House officials say they want to vaccinate as many people as possible, rather than reach for a specific threshold for “herd immunity.” The administration is also weighing the balance between ensuring all Americans, including the very young, can get vaccinated and meeting the growing demand from developing countries such as India that are facing grim and rising breakouts overseas.
“I think everyone feels an obligation to vaccinate their own populations,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the British newspaper The Financial Times on Tuesday. “But beyond that, just as it’s necessary for our own security and well-being to see the rest of the world vaccinated, so is it important for the security and well-being of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated. This works in both directions, and I think we’ve had to do both. Now we’re in a position where I believe we can.”
Mr. Biden said the Food and Drug Administration might approve the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12 to 15 in the coming days. He said his administration will ship doses to pediatricians’ offices as soon as regulators give the green light.
The president’s decision to outline a population-based target at all is notable. To date, the White House has spoken in logistical terms, pointing to the number of shots delivered into arms during its first 100 days.
Eager Americans and the medically vulnerable have scheduled their appointments, forcing Mr. Biden to look for ways to inject enthusiasm into the rollout — especially among younger people who feel COVID-19 isn’t much of a threat to them.
Mr. Biden said younger people are part of the chain of transmission and propagating outbreaks, hurting others.
“Most people will be convinced [to get vaccinated],” he said, “by the fact their failure to get a vaccine may cause other people to get sick and maybe die.”
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