The US was in a hurry to vaccinate on Wednesday as Joe Biden announced the day before that all US adults would be eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine by 19 April, even as he warned that the nation was still in a “life-and-death race” against the virus.
Half of all US adults are expected to have had at least one shot of the available vaccines by the start of next week and 108 million have been vaccinated so far in the US, covering more than 40% of the eligible population aged 16 and older – or almost a third of the total population of the US.
But many states are still seeing coronavirus on the rise. Michigan, for example, is seeing rates of increase not experienced since the late autumn surge in November, with three quarters of new cases believed to be the more contagious UK variant of Covid-19.
Pairing optimism with caution at the White House on Tuesday, the president touted the administration’s success in accelerating the pace of the vaccination effort, including the milestone of administering a record 4m doses in a single day. But that progress, he said, is threatened by the rise in coronavirus cases in many states across the US as dangerous variants spread and some officials loosen public health restrictions.
“We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do,” Biden said in remarks at the White House on Tuesday. “We’re still in a life-and-death race against this virus.”
In his remarks, Biden expressed confidence that every American over the age of 18 would be eligible to get in the “virtual line” to be vaccinated soon.
The White House coronavirus expert team, led by Dr Anthony Fauci, will deliver its latest briefing to the public on Wednesday morning.
Fauci warned against young people in particular behaving as though the pandemic were over.
“More and more young people are getting into serious trouble,” he said, with young adults susceptible to “serious disease requiring hospitalizations and sometimes even resulting in tragic deaths”.
Young people are thought to be driving rising numbers in Michigan, for example, where the confirmed total of cases has reached 700,000 and is rising by more than 5,600 a day, the highest rate since December.
Meanwhile, a number of US states have already said they will meet the accelerated timeline for vaccine eligibility, which is roughly two weeks earlier than the initial 1 May goal. Meanwhile, states such as New Jersey and Oregon announced this week that all Americans over 16 would be eligible to sign up for a vaccine on 19 April.
Biden said the new deadline would eliminate uncertainty about eligibility, which varies by state. “No more confusing rules, no more confusing restrictions,” he said.
The president delivered his remarks after visiting a Covid-19 vaccination site in Alexandria, Virginia, where he thanked healthcare workers for administering the shots and urged those getting them to encourage their friends and family to do the same.
“When you go home, get all your friends, tell them, ‘Get a shot when they can,’” he said. “That’s how we’re going to beat this.”
The administration informed governors during a weekly conference call that more than 28m doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be delivered to states this week, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said at her daily briefing. That allocation brings the cumulative total over the past three weeks to 90m doses, she said.
Psaki also said that the administration does not support the creation of a vaccine passport or a federal vaccine database.
“The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” she said. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
Biden also announced that the US had delivered 150m doses of the coronavirus vaccine since the start of his presidency, putting him on track to “beat” his goal of administering 200m shots by his 100th day in office. Biden initially set a goal of achieving 100m shots in his first 100 days, which many experts worried was not ambitious enough. But the administration surpassed that target in March and doubled the number.
But he said it was imperative to continue to follow public safety measures like mask wearing and social distancing.
Sketching a tantalizing vision of a Fourth of July barbecue with friends and family, Biden promised: “Better times are ahead.”
“I want to have an Independence Day – an independence from the Covid,” he said, adding that the challenge remained: “How much death, disease and misery are we going to see between now and then.”