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Biden marks 50 million coronavirus vaccines but warns virus fight not over

Biden marks 50 million coronavirus vaccines but warns virus fight not over
© SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE on Thursday marked the 50 millionth coronavirus vaccine shot delivered in the United States and said the country was making progress in defeating the pandemic and returning to normal life.

But he also warned Americans not to let their guard down.

Biden said the vaccine count marked major progress toward reaching and surpassing his administration’s goal of getting 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in his first 100 days in office. 

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“Today, I am here to report we are halfway there. Fifty million shots in just 37 days since I have become president. That is weeks ahead of schedule, even with the setbacks we faced during the recent winter storms,” Biden said in the South Court Auditorium Thursday afternoon. 

“We are moving in the right direction, though, despite the mess with inherited from the previous administration, which left us with no real plan to vaccinate all Americans,” Biden said, echoing other administration officials who have characterized the Trump administration’s vaccination plan as insufficient.

Biden promoted his administration’s efforts to increase the supply of vaccines and the number of health workers who can vaccinate individuals and to work with states and communities to set up more vaccination sites.

Biden also celebrated the news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis found Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine to be effective, but promised not to put “political pressure” on the FDA to grant emergency use authorization for the vaccine. 

“If the FDA approves the use of this new vaccine, we have a plan to roll it out as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can produce it,” Biden said.

Biden also urged Americans to continue following public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus, even as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths fall.

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“Cases and hospitalizations could go back up as new variants emerge,” Biden said. “This is not a time to relax. We must keep watching our hands, stay socially distant, and for god’s sake, for god’s sake, wear a mask.”

Biden said he was unable to offer a date when the pandemic would be over, saying it would depend on Americans following public health protocols and getting vaccinated and on Congress passing a new coronavirus relief bill. But he said that the milestone of 50 million vaccines had brought the country closer to ending the pandemic.

“I can only promise that we’ll work as hard as we can to make that day come as soon as possible,” Biden said. “Remember, we can do this. This is the United States of  America. There is nothing we can’t do when we do it together. It’s not over, but we’re getting close.”

The Biden administration has faced logistical challenges in its first weeks as it works to get vaccines to states and vaccinate Americans across the country. The recent bout of unusual winter weather in the south delayed vaccine distributed last week, but officials say they have cleared the backlog.

Some public health experts have criticized Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days as too low. 

Biden said earlier this month that the U.S. would have 600 million doses — enough vaccines to inoculate 300 million Americans — by the end of July. It is likely to take longer than that to distribute and administer the vaccines. 

On Thursday, Biden and Vice President Harris looked on quietly as a registered nurse administered Pfizer vaccine shots to two D.C. firefighters, an D.C. elementary school counselor and a manager at a Safeway in Bethesda.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiRepublicans attack Biden agenda after disappointing jobs report Biden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon Sinema urges Biden to take 'bold' action at border: 'This is a crisis' MORE told reporters earlier Thursday that the U.S. hit the 50 millionth shot sometime Wednesday but could not pinpoint who received it.