Biden sets goal of fully vaccinating 160 million adults by July 4
Washington — President Biden set a new target of having 160 million U.S. adults fully vaccinated and 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, ramping up efforts to reach rural areas and communities where the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations has lagged.
"As we anticipated, the pace of the vaccinations is slowing, now that a majority of American adults have already gotten their first shot," Mr. Biden said in remarks at the White House. "Soon we'll have reached the adults who are most eager to get vaccinated, and at that point, this effort will shift ... Now we're going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager."
Mr. Biden said the administration is going to "make it easier than ever" to get a shot as the U.S. enters a "new phase" of the vaccination campaign.
The president said the administration is launching new efforts to hit his goal by directing pharmacies to offer walk-in vaccines, deploying mobile vaccination clinics, increasing funding for community outreach and encouraging young people to get vaccinated if and when a shot is approved for use in adolescents. He directed Americans to a new website, vaccines.gov, to find a nearby vaccination site.
As of Monday, more than 104 million adults, or 40% of the adult population, were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The percentage of adults who have had at least one shot stood at 56.3%.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine for use among adolescents by early next week. The president said the administration is prepared to begin vaccinating young people as soon as the agency approves its use.
"I want American parents to know, if that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately ... to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants its OK," Mr. Biden said.
The new push to reach the unvaccinated comes as states have begun to lift pandemic-related restrictions and demand for the shots has slowed. The Biden administration told state officials on Tuesday that it is shifting deployment of vaccine doses to allow unordered shots to be sent to other states where demand is higher, multiple officials familiar with the plan told CBS News.
Under the new plan, if a state doesn't need as many doses as it has been allotted based on its population, those doses will be diverted into a new federal pool that could be tapped by other states with higher demand. States could order up to 50% more than their weekly allotment, the officials said. But they stressed it is not a "use or or lose it" system.
At least 25 states told CBS News they did not order all the available doses allocated to them for this week.
The president said the shift in focus to convince Americans to get the vaccine is in some ways easier than the administration's early efforts to ramp up production and distribution of the vaccine, but acknowledged the challenge in convincing skeptical Americans to get the shots.
"I think at the end of the day, most people will be convinced by the fact that their failure to get the vaccine may cause other people to get sick, and maybe die," Mr. Biden said. "And so, in one sense, it's easier because I don't have to put together this massive logistical effort. But in the other sense, it's harder — it's beyond my personal control."
The CDC unveiled updated guidelines last week detailing activities that vaccinated people can safely resume, including the relaxing of mask usage in most outdoor settings. More than 577,000 Americans have died from the virus, and there were nearly 30,000 new cases on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Corey Rangel, Ed O'Keefe and Max Bayer contributed reporting.
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