WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new goal for COVID-19 vaccinations, announcing the federal government will push to administer at least one vaccine dose to 70% of U.S. adults by July 4, with the aim of getting the country "back closer to normal."
Biden, speaking from the White House, said his administration hopes that 160 million American adults will be fully vaccinated by Independence Day. He also said his administration is prepared to ramp up vaccination efforts for adolescents 12 and 15 as Pfizer, the manufacturer of one of three federally approved vaccines, seeks approval to expand the age eligibility for its two-dose vaccine.
"We’re going to make it easier than ever to get vaccinated," Biden said after listing a number of new efforts to expand access to vaccines including a new federal website — vaccine.gov — that will connect users to vaccine sites in their area.
Biden’s push comes as the number of Americans showing up for shots has started to slow down over the past month. More than 56% of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and about 105 million are fully vaccinated, according to federal data. The United States is currently averaging 965,000 doses per day, down from a high of about 3 million doses per day in April.
Biden acknowledged that persuading those who are hesitant to show up for an inoculation will be "harder" than the initial rollout of his vaccine plan when millions of Americans were eager to line up to be vaccinated.
"We know we're going to get to a place where the doubters exist," Biden said. "It's going to be hard. So we're going to keep at it."
To increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, Biden said he has directed the tens of thousands of pharmacies already partnering with the federal government to administer vaccines to offer walk-in appointments. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also will ramp up efforts to provide more pop-up clinics, mobile clinics and smaller community vaccination sites to reach communities with lower vaccination rates.
Biden said the federal government is also prepared to administer millions of additional doses should the Food and Drug Administration grant Pfizer’s request to lower the age eligibility of its vaccine to 12 years of age. Currently, only Americans 16 and older are eligible for the federally approved vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
If the FDA approves Pfizer’s request, which is reportedly expected to occur early next week, Biden said about 20,000 pharmacies across the country "are ready to move immediately" to administer the vaccine to adolescents, and the federal government will "ship vaccines directly to pediatricians … so parents and their children can talk to their family provider and get a shot from a provider they trust the most" for free.
"We know that adolescents are at risk from COVID-19," Biden said. "The most serious illness at that age is rare. They can still get sick and spread the virus to others. So my hope is that if the vaccine is authorized, parents will take advantage of it and get their kids vaccinated."
Biden said he picked the Fourth of July as a goal date "to try to get to a place where we get closer to normal," but he anticipates the United States will "be vaccinating people into next fall."
The United States has been averaging about 50,000 new infections per day, and about 700 deaths per day over the past week, according to the most recent federal data reviewed by Newsday.