President Joe Biden announced the U.S. has reached a new milestone in the battle against: "Today, we will have reached the mark of 300 million shots in arms in just 150 days," he said in brief remarks at the White House Friday, on the 150th day of his presidency.
"We're heading into a very different summer than last year," he said, calling it a "bright summer" and a "summer of joy," after noting that the U.S. has reached the 300 million shots benchmark "months ahead of what most anyone thought was possible when we started."
However, the president's self-imposed July 4 deadline for 70% of American adults to have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine is approaching soon. In order to hit that target, as of Thursday, the U.S. would have to be giving roughly 717,000 first doses per day. At this point, approximately 347,000 doses per day are being administered, and not all of the people receiving them are adults.
The president said that now, the rates of death and hospitalization "are drastically down in places where people are getting vaccinated." But he added that these numbers are not diminishing in states with lower vaccination rates and "are actually going up in some places," noting that the U.S. had crossed the threshold of 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 a few days ago.
He also expressed concern about theof the virus, which was first detected in India and has been found in 42 states so far.
"It's a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadly, and particularly dangerous for young people," Mr. Biden said, as he urged Americans to get their first and second shots. "If you have one shot, get the second shot — as soon as you can, so you're fully vaccinated."
The Biden administration says that over 175 million Americans have gotten their first shot — 65% of all adult Americans. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday that 87% of seniors have received their first shots, as well as 74% of adults who are 40 years of age and older. Asked about whether the White House would reach its 70% goal by Independence Day, Zients was confident that the threshold would be reached this summer, though he was vague about the date.
"We are going to get to 70%," he said. "And we're going to continue across the summer months to push beyond 70%."
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced a commitment of $3.2 billion to developing antiviral pills to treat COVID-19. At the briefing Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters that while vaccines are still "the centerpiece of our arsenal" in fighting the disease, antivirals would complement them. He explained that those who are more vulnerable, like those who are immunosuppressed and may not receive as much protection from vaccines, could be helped by antivirals that treat COVID-19.
And antivirals, Fauci said, would also provide "a line of defense against other unexpected emerging things, like variants of concern that we are currently dealing with." The funding will be used both to accelerate clinical testing of promising drugs that are already being developed and to discover new medications.
Bo Erickson and Alexander Tin contributed to this report.