WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has made great progress, but much more needs to be done, President Biden said Tuesday.
Biden began his speech in the State Dining Room at the White House by giving an update on vaccination progress. “As we stand here today almost 150 million Americans have gotten at least one shot,” he said. “Over 105 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and among our most vulnerable population — seniors — we’re nearing 85% of those who’ve gotten their first shot. Seventy percent of the seniors right now are fully vaccinated. It’s a dramatic turnaround from where we were in January, less than 2% of adults and less than 1% of seniors were vaccinated.”
He then announced a new goal. “Two months from today, families across the country are going to celebrate the Fourth of July,” Biden said. “Our goal by July 4 is to have 70% of adult Americans having at least one shot, and at least 160 million Americans fully vaccinated. That means giving close to 100 million shots — some first shots, others second shots — over the next 60 days. Of course, Americans can still get shots after July 4, but no one should wait. Let’s try to hit that 70% mark.”
The new phase of the vaccination campaign will focus on three groups, the president said: children ages 12-15, those who find it too inconvenient to get a vaccine, and those who need to be persuaded to get a vaccine.
Currently, children younger than 16 are not eligible to be vaccinated, but “the FDA scientists are currently reviewing the data” on the issue, he said. “I want American parents to know that if that announcement comes, we are ready to immediately move to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants its okay.”
In addition, “We’re also going to ship vaccines directly to pediatricians during the following weeks, so parents and children can talk to the family doctor and get the shots from the provider they trust the most — easy, fast, and free,” he said. “And if teens are on the move this summer, they can get their first shot in one place and the second shot elsewhere … So my hope is that if the vaccine is authorized, parents will take advantage of it, and get their kids vaccinated.”
As for making it easier for adults to get vaccinated, “we have formally launched a simple website where you can find the vaccination location closest to you. That site is vaccines.gov,” he said. “Go there now. Find a location to get the shot to make an appointment.” For those who prefer to text, “text your zip code to the following number: 438829, and you’ll get a text back from a location that is nearest to you with vaccines in stock.”
And for those who’d rather not have to make an appointment for their vaccination, “we’re also going to direct all of our federal pharmacy partners to begin to provide walk-in hours. You’ll soon be able to get vaccinated without an appointment at the vast majority of our 40,000 pharmacy locations across the country,” he said. “We’re also encouraging our state and local partners, to have walk-in abilities as well.”
Rural areas are another focus. “Beginning next week, we’ll be shipping new allocations of vaccine to rural health clinics, getting more vaccines to more rural clinics so Americans who don’t live near one of those 75,000 vaccination sites will have new options — maybe closer than anything they thought,” said Biden. “We know that vaccination rates are lower in rural areas. And that’s why we’re going to get vaccines closer than ever to rural residents.”
For those that are vaccine-hesitant, Biden thanked the 1,000 employers who have offered their employees paid time off to get vaccinated, and added that his administration is implementing a tax credit program to reimburse businesses for the cost of doing that. The administration is also working with grocery stores and sports leagues to offer customers and patrons special discounts and merchandise deals if they get vaccinated, he said.
Although the U.S. has come a long way toward getting back to normal, “we’re not there yet,” said Biden. “That’s why I’m asking people to continue to follow the CDC guidelines as we work to get more people vaccinated … As we continue to drive vaccinations up and caseloads down, we’ll need our masks less and less. I know it will take time to get everything back to normal. We’re all going to have to be patient with one another. Masking as directed is a patriotic duty, but so too is treating each other with respect and patience.”