WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday announced the federal government has purchased an additional 200 million COVID-19 vaccination doses, asserting that the U.S. is on track "to have enough supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July."
Biden, appearing at the National Institutes of Health, said the administration has purchased 100 million additional doses from Pfizer and 100 million additional doses from Moderna, with both companies pledging to deliver the doses by the end of July, faster than initially anticipated.
The additional doses would bring the country’s total vaccine supply to 600 million doses.
Biden said both companies have promised to expedite the delivery of 100 million doses that were promised by the end of June. Biden said those doses will be available by the end of May.
More than 33 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, and about 10.5 million have completed both doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But across the country millions more are waiting.
Acknowledging growing frustration among Americans unable to secure a vaccination, Biden partly blamed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, saying the previous administration did not have an adequate plan in place.
"My predecessor, to be very blunt about it, did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans," Biden said. "He didn't order enough vaccines. He didn't mobilize enough people to administer the shots."
The Trump administration, under Operation Warp Speed, had secured commitments from Pfizer and Moderna for 400 million doses. The initial vaccine distribution effort rolled out in December was saddled by delays, with several state governors complaining about a lack of federal coordination.
Biden, who promised to vaccinate 100 million Americans by his first 100 days in office, said that since taking office on Jan. 20, the U.S. has increased production of the vaccine supply by 30 percent.
"That means millions more Americans will get vaccinated in February than the previous administration was on track to do," Biden said.
The president, wearing a mask throughout his address, said he recognized "people want confidence that it’s safe" to get vaccinated. Biden noted that he and Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses were all vaccinated without incident.
"It's safe for people to get vaccinated to beat this pandemic," Biden said.
A third potential vaccine candidate developed by Johnson & Johnson, which only requires one dose, is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Biden toured the institutes’ Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory that led the effort behind the COVID-19 vaccine now manufactured by Moderna. He was joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.
Earlier in the day, Biden met with a bipartisan group of senators in the Oval Office to kick off preliminary talks on an infrastructure package.
Biden, speaking to reporters, said if the U.S. does not invest more in upgrading aging transportation and communications systems, China is "going to eat our lunch."
"It used to be that infrastructure wasn't a Democrat or a Republican issue. There are not many Republican or Democratic roads and bridges," Biden said of building bipartisan support for a package.
During the presidential campaign, Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package that also would focus on responding to climate change. But on Thursday when asked about a possible price tag, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment, saying "we’re not at that stage in the process yet."
The meeting was attended by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Delaware), who serves as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia.), the ranking Republican on the committee. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) also attended.
Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also participated in the meeting. Buttigieg attended via video conference after he was forced to quarantine because a member of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has repeatedly said the issue of infrastructure has bipartisan support and has long argued that any infrastructure package should include funding to complete the Gateway Tunnel project, which would build a new railroad tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River. The project languished under the Trump administration after he blocked funding.