President Joe Biden announced his administration’s latest goals in the fight against the coronavirus on Tuesday: 70% of adults in the US should receive at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and 160 million adults should be fully vaccinated by July 4.
The new vaccination targets came two months after Independence Day, a date the White House hopes will mark a turning point in the pandemic.
“If we succeed in these efforts,” said Biden in the White House, “then the Americans have taken a serious step towards a return to normal.”
In a background conversation with reporters earlier Tuesday, senior government officials also said the White House would change the way it allocates vaccines to states. Covid vaccines that are not used or undesirable by some states are being passed on to others, authorities say.
To get another ten million vaccinations over the next 61 days, the president will take additional steps to encourage and make it easier for more people to vaccinate, officials said.
Biden will direct thousands of local pharmacies to offer walk-in vaccinations to people without an appointment, an official said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also support pop-up and mobile clinics aimed at those who may otherwise have difficulty reaching vaccination sites.
The White House is also preparing to “mobilize immediately” if the Food and Drug Administration approves Pfizer’s emergency Covid vaccine for people ages 12-15, an official said.
Administration officials also said more funds from the Covid Relief Act of $ 1.9 trillion will be allocated to rural health clinics and hospitals.
The government’s new efforts appear in part to be aimed at addressing the vaccine hesitation problem. For example, a survey by Monmouth University published in mid-April found that around one in five Americans said they didn’t get a chance.
The new goal is to slow the pace of daily shots, to an average of 2.3 million reported vaccinations per day as of Monday, from a high of 3.4 million on April 13.
As of Monday, more than 145 million Americans aged 18 and over, or 56.3% of the total adult population, had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 104.7 million Americans 18 and older, or 40.6% of the total adult population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Reaching 70% does not mean the US has achieved what is known as herd immunity to the virus, officials on the call noted.
Some health experts have argued that between 70% and 85% of the US population must be vaccinated against Covid in order to achieve herd immunity – the point at which enough people in a given community have antibodies to a given disease.
However, one official said herd immunity was indeed “elusive” and the US should only focus on vaccinating as many people as possible to avoid hospitalizations and deaths.
“Covid-19 will vary in its degree and dynamics depending on the community,” said the official. “Therefore, each community must strive individually to achieve the goal of vaccinating 70% of its population by July 4th.”
Biden, who made Covid his primary focus when he took office on January 20, previously identified July 4 as a significant date in the United States’ fight against the pandemic.
In his first prime-time address to the nation in March, Biden set out to allow Americans to meet in small groups in person with friends and loved ones to celebrate the holidays.
“If we all do our part, this country will soon be vaccinated, our economy will improve, our children will be back in school and we will prove again that this country can do everything,” said Biden at the time.