President Joe Biden announced Thursday that all adults in the United States will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine by May 1. “All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine by May 1, at the latest,” Biden said. “That is much earlier than expected.”
Biden made it clear that adults cannot all get a vaccine right away, but at least they will be able to line up. Even then, he said the country would have enough vaccines for all adults by the end of May – a claim he had previously made.
It’s a goal that Biden said would not have been feasible just a few months ago. But there is good reason to believe that it is absolutely possible now.
As of Thursday, the U.S. had given at least one dose of the vaccine to 64 million people, with 33 million people fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US currently gives around 2.2 million doses of the vaccine every day.
Even if that rate doesn’t improve at all, the U.S. could fully vaccinate approximately 130 to 140 million Americans by May 1. That’s more than half of the nearly 260 million adults in the US today. Before Biden’s promised date, the majority of adults in America could be vaccinated.
There are also very good reasons to believe that the rate will increase. By the end of this month, pharmaceutical companies had announced that they would manufacture and ship more than 3 million vaccines every day. If states can turn those doses into weapons as quickly as possible, the US could vaccinate around 150 to 160 million Americans – roughly two-thirds of the US adults – by May.
And the vaccination rate could easily rise above that as the supply continues to grow in the coming month and a half.
In other words, Biden’s promise could come at a time when only a third of adults in the US need to be vaccinated, while the country is likely firing shots at the rate of 3 million doses a day, if not more. At this point, the math just fits: the remaining 100 million adults in America could really be covered over a period of a month. The only obstacle, if all goes well, will be an appointment.
That is not to say that the US is meant to do all of this with no problems. Perhaps the pharmaceutical companies cannot keep the promised offer. Perhaps cities, states, and the government won’t overcome all logistical hurdles to get shots in the arms. Maybe something else is breaking into a rather complicated supply chain.
And if the supply goes up, vaccine hesitation is likely to become a bigger problem as more adults simply turn down a vaccine. To overcome this and further increase the nationwide vaccination rate, creative education and awareness campaigns that focus on local pockets of resistance are required. That will present its own logistical challenges.
But at least all of this seems to be possible. That was not the case when Biden took office, as the vaccine was difficult to roll out in the country and fewer than 1 million Americans were shot each day. At the time, it was unclear whether we could vaccinate all adults in the United States by the end of the year. It now looks like America could get the job done in just a few months.