Biden to call for all adults to be eligible for vaccine by May 1
President Biden on Thursday evening will direct states to make all adults eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine by May 1, suggesting the possibility of an incremental return to normal by the Fourth of July holiday.
During his first prime-time address to the nation, Biden will say that because of his administration’s efforts, the country is on track to return to some semblance of normality much earlier than expected.
“As the president will say tonight, the fight is far from over. We still have a lot of work to do,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters to preview Biden’s speech. “But together, unified, we can defeat this pandemic, and we can all celebrate a more normal Fourth of July gathered in small groups to celebrate the holiday.”
Biden will also use his speech, which is expected to last roughly 20 minutes, to recognize the more than 500,000 Americans who have died of coronavirus in the last year and acknowledge the struggles the country has faced. The speech falls a year after many states began enacting sweeping measures intended to curb the spread of the virus.
He will also chart a path forward in his administration’s plans to fight the pandemic.
The president will direct states to make all adults eligible for shots no later than May 1, announce plans to surge vaccinators and increase locations where Americans can get their shot, and preview the creation of a government-run website and call center to help individuals find a vaccine appointment.
More than 4,000 additional active-duty troops will be deployed to help with vaccinations, and the administration will loosen federal rules to allow a wider range of professionals to administer the shots, like dentists, paramedics, physician assistants, veterinarians and medical students.
A senior administration official clarified that the public will still likely need to avoid large gatherings by Independence Day and cautioned that the country’s progress was dependent on continued mask wearing and widespread vaccinations in the interim.
The administration envisions small get-togethers like backyard barbecues being safe, the official said.
The summer holiday offers a concrete target for when Biden hopes to have the country closer to pre-pandemic life.
“That’s a big step in the right direction,” the official said. “We believe if we do our part we’ll be in a much better place by Independence Day.”
But at the same time, some states have already completely lifted their coronavirus restrictions, with plans to pack baseball stadiums and restaurants to capacity.
The Biden administration has been careful to temper expectations around the pandemic response, offering modest targets for both vaccine availability and a date for the return to “normal.”
The president previously offered Christmas as a timeline for when he expected the country would be back to a semblance of normalcy.
A senior administration official noted that not everyone will be able to receive a vaccine by May 1, but that date “reflects our success working with the vaccine manufacturers to increase supply and secure doses for all adult Americans.”
Biden has the authority to direct states to open up vaccine eligibility through the Department of Health and Human Services, the official said.
Some states have already started making the shots more widely available. Alaska this week became the first state to announce everyone over the age of 16 would be eligible for a vaccine.
The speech will also double as something of a victory lap for Biden after he signed into law the American Rescue Plan earlier in the day.
The $1.9 trillion package includes billions in funding for vaccine distribution, school reopenings and virus sequencing efforts to combat variants, all of which senior officials highlighted on Thursday’s call with reporters.