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Biden: US will have vaccine for all adults by end of May
President Biden on Tuesday said that the United States will have enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all American adults for the coronavirus by the end of May, crediting a "stepped-up process" under his administration.
Biden made the announcement while outlining a partnership between Merck and Johnson & Johnson to produce the latter's single-dose coronavirus vaccine.
"We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May," Biden said in remarks Tuesday afternoon at the White House. "When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that."
The new timeline is more condensed than Biden's previous prediction that the U.S. would have enough vaccines for all American adults - 600 million doses - by the end of July.
Biden stressed that Tuesday's developments marked a significant milestone in the fight against the virus, but he cautioned that more work needs to be done in order to distribute the vaccine and inoculate much of the U.S. population.
He highlighted his administration's efforts to boost the number of vaccinators and locations where Americans can receive doses.
"That is progress, important progress," Biden said. "But it's not enough to have the vaccine supply."
It could take much longer for the country to vaccinate the adult population, given the logistical hurdles of distributing and administering vaccines. Americans in states and cities, including Washington, D.C., have encountered challenges in signing up for appointments online. The Biden administration is also trying to address vaccine hesitancy by communicating that the vaccines are safe and effective in order to ensure that as much of the population as possible gets vaccinated.
He also reiterated calls for Congress to swiftly pass his $1.9 trillion relief proposal.
To increase the number of vaccinations in circulation, Biden detailed Merck's collaboration to expand production of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend. Biden said he has invoked the Defense Production Act to equip Merck facilities to safely manufacture the vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson plans to operate its facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to increase supply.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the third to be authorized for emergency use in the U.S.; vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech and by Moderna were approved during the Trump administration. Biden and other officials have repeatedly accused the Trump administration of not having a sufficient plan for distributing vaccines across the country.
The announcement Tuesday of the new timeline is a bright spot in the country's yearlong fight against the virus. While cases and deaths remain high, they have come down from their peaks following the 2020 holiday season.
Last week, Biden marked the milestone of the 50 millionth dose of coronavirus vaccine being administered. The White House said earlier Tuesday that the weekly supply of doses to states would increase to 18 million this week.
Still, new variants of the coronavirus remain a cause for concern, and more than 500,000 people in the U.S. have died from the virus.
Biden urged Americans to remain vigilant by continuing to wash their hands, keep their distance from others and wear masks. His remarks came as governors in Texas and Mississippi lifted mask mandates and other restrictions, allowing businesses to fully reopen. Biden did not mention those states on Tuesday but emphasized his call for Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.
"Things may get worse again as new variants spread and as we face setbacks like recent winter storms in the Midwest and South. But our administration will never take this public health threat lightly," Biden said. "Now is not the time to let our guard down. People's lives are at stake."
Asked at the conclusion of the event when the U.S. would get back to normal, Biden told reporters he had been cautioned not to give an answer due to uncertainty but said he hoped it would be within a year.
"My hope is by this time next year we are going to be back to normal or before that," Biden said.
Updated at 5:12 p.m.