Photograph: Alex Edelman / EPA
Joe Biden has announced his goal of ensuring that 70% of American adults receive at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by Independence Day on July 4.
The US President urged people in their 20s and 30s in particular to get vaccinated and said his administration was “ready to act immediately” if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
“Our goal by July 4 is to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one vaccine and 160 million Americans fully immunized,” Biden told the White House Tuesday. “It means hitting nearly 100m – some first shots, some second shots – over the next 60 days.”
He added: “The light at the end of the tunnel is actually getting brighter and brighter.”
The president had previously announced on July 4 as a target when people can come together in small groups to signal a return to greater normalcy.
His latest remarks come as the administration faces a shift from a vaccine shortage to a scarcity of demand, with many hesitant about the vaccine and so-called ‘herd immunity’ still a distant prospect. .
The United States is administering the first doses at a rate of about 965,000 per day, half the rate from three weeks ago. Some states have left more than half of their government allocated unordered doses.
Biden said, “Now that we have the vaccine supply, we are working to convince even more Americans to come forward and get the vaccine they have. If we are successful in this effort… then the Americans will have taken a serious step towards a return to normalcy.
A senior administration official told reporters 105 million people had been fully vaccinated and more than 56% of adults, or 147 million people, had received at least one dose.
Biden acknowledged, “There are a lot of young people, especially those in their twenties and thirties, who think they don’t need it. Well, I want to be absolutely clear: you need to get vaccinated… Even if your risk of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk? “
Officials are also preparing to administer vaccines to adolescents once they are approved by the FDA, which is reviewing the data. Biden said, “Today I want American parents to know that if this announcement comes, we are ready to act immediately – to immediately make approximately 20,000 drugstore sites across the country ready to vaccinate these teens as soon as the FDA will grant its approval. “
Biden said vaccines would also be sent to pediatricians, allowing parents and children to discuss the issue with family doctors. Young athletes on a sports team might get their first shot in one place and their second shot elsewhere. “I hope that if the vaccine is allowed, parents will take advantage of it and have their children vaccinated.”
Biden also announced a website, vaccines.gov, and a phone number, 438829, where people can send their zip codes to find the vaccination site closest to them. This week, the administration will order pharmacies to provide walk-in hours and phase out mass vaccination sites in favor of smaller sites closer to unvaccinated people, including in rural areas. “Now we’re going to have to get the vaccine to people who are less eager,” Biden said.
Investigations have revealed a partisan split, with residents of districts that voted for Donald Trump more reluctant to get vaccinated. Biden made a plea, “It’s not a Democratic or a Republican issue. The science behind vaccines has been in development for decades … While we don’t always agree on everything, it’s something that people from all political walks of life can agree on.
Asked by reporters, Biden said he hoped the next public persuasion campaign would be easier than the massive logistical effort to distribute and administer vaccines in his first 100 days.
But he added: “We will continue. Ultimately, most people will be convinced that their inability to get the vaccine can lead to illness and death for others. “
On a different note, Biden suggested he would meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on a trip to Europe next month. “This is my hope and my expectations,” he said. “We are working on it.”