WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden, delivering a progress report on the state of COVID-19 vaccinations, said by Friday the United States will have met his administration’s goal of administering 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.
Speaking from the White House on Thursday, Biden pledged to set a new vaccination goal in the coming days, as public health officials continue to push for an acceleration of vaccinations as variants of the virus continue to spread.
"This is a time for optimism, but it's not time for relaxation," Biden said. "I need all Americans, I need all of you to do your part."
Biden said the United States will surpass the 100 million vaccine shot threshold 58 days into his presidency -- six weeks earlier than planned.
His top aides have previously described the goal as ambitious, saying they inherited an incomplete vaccination strategy from the prior administration and noting that Biden announced his goal on Dec. 8, weeks before any of the three current vaccines by Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson had been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. But critics have argued that the United States was already on pace to provide 1 million shots a day by the time Biden was sworn into office, making the goal well within reach.
The president on Thursday said the United States is averaging 2.5 million shots a day, up from nearly 966,000 when he took office on Jan. 20th.
Earlier this month, Biden announced the country will have enough vaccine supply on hand to vaccinate every American adult by the end of May, and he directed states to open up vaccinations to all adults by May 1.
"Now's not the time to let down our guard," Biden said. "Scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread. Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants. Millions of people are vaccinated, we need millions more to be vaccinated."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, appearing on NBC’s "Today" show, warned that the United States could see another surge in cases as more states move to lift social distancing restrictions and mask mandates. "It really is going to be a race between the vaccine and a potential surge," he said.
The White House also announced plans to provide Mexico and Canada with a surplus of the AstraZeneca vaccine that has not yet been approved for use in the United States but has been authorized by the World Health Organization.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the United States is finalizing plans to send 2.5 million doses to Mexico and 1.5 million doses to Canada. The leaders of both countries had appealed to Biden in recent virtual one-on-one meetings to open up sales of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the United States, but White House officials have repeatedly said Biden would not ease restrictions until there was sufficient supply to vaccinate all Americans.