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Biden: US will be in 'very different position' by summer in coronavirus fight

President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE predicted Monday that the United States would be in a “very different position” by the end of the summer when it comes to the number of Americans vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. 

“I’ve worked very hard to make sure we have over 600 million doses of vaccine,” Biden said. “We are going to continue to make sure that is available. We are going to increase that number across the board as well so we can also be helping other nations once we take care of all Americans.” 

Biden acknowledged there is debate about what percentage of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity, or the point when enough people are vaccinated to make the spread of the virus unlikely. He went on to plead with the public to get their shots now that every American over the age of 16 is eligible to receive a dose.

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“There is a debate into what constitutes herd immunity. Is it 70 percent of the population, is it 68 percent, is it 81 percent,” Biden said. “Right now, every single person 16 years or older doesn’t have to wait in line, can show up and get a vaccination now. My plea to everyone: Get vaccinated now. Thank you.”

The Biden administration ramped up the pace of vaccinations, and 56 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, vaccination rates have been trending downward and polls show that a considerable slice of U.S. adults do not plan to get a vaccine. A Monmouth University survey conducted in April found that about one-fifth of U.S. adults said they do not plan to get vaccinated.

The New York Times reported Monday that most scientists and public health experts believe that the U.S. will not reach herd immunity, at least not in the near future.  

Health experts also warn that the virus and its variants will not be entirely eradicated until much of the global population is vaccinated, a reason why Biden has been under increasing pressure to share unused vaccine doses with other countries like India, where COVID-19 cases are surging. 

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With his comments on Monday, Biden sought to inject some optimism into the fight against the virus. He noted that over 80 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and said there has been no difference in rates across ethnic and racial minority groups in that age bracket.

Biden’s goal has been to have enough people vaccinated that Americans can enjoy a somewhat normal July 4 holiday by gathering in small groups, but he has been careful to emphasize that the progress against the virus depends on the actions of the public. 

The administration has tried to incentivize Americans to get vaccinated by pointing out the activities they can safely do once they are inoculated. CDC recently issued guidance saying vaccinated Americans can shed their face masks outdoors, except when around large crowds. Biden has continued to wear a mask in public, which has led to some criticism from public health experts that he is not sending the right message.