Biden acknowledges difficulty of next stage of vaccine effort

President Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccination program in the State Dining Room of the White House
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President Biden acknowledged Tuesday that the next phase of the U.S. vaccination effort will be more difficult, as it will mostly be out of his control.

“In one sense, it’s easier because I don’t have to put together this massive logistical effort, but in the other sense, it’s harder because it’s beyond my personal control,” Biden said in response to a question after his prepared remarks.

The White House announced last week that 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, meaning they got either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer shot.

However, the nationwide vaccination rate has noticeably slowed in recent days. The average daily vaccination rate was down from a high of 3.38 million on April 13,to about 2.6 million on Thursday, according to figures from Our World in Data.

The nation is fast approaching the tipping point of vaccinations, where supply will outstrip demand. In some states, the slowdown is coming with relatively high vaccination coverage levels. But overall, especially across the South, uptake is slowing.

State and federal officials are going to need to find the best message and best method to get shots to people who are hesitant, unable or just indifferent.

For months, supply has been so limited that states were restricting access to specific priority groups and many people who wanted a shot couldn’t get one. But now every person over the age of 16 is eligible, and more than half the country’s adult population has received at least one dose.

“It’s going to get more granular, I think, rather than large,” Biden said. “The likelihood of us being able to get 100,000 vaccinations a week at a major site is getting harder and harder. Those people desperately wanted to get a vaccine.”

Biden said setting up the logistics and infrastructure for distribution and mass vaccination was hard, but it was something he personally had influence over. Convincing the holdouts will be different.

In the next phase, he said the administration is going to focus on bringing in trusted messengers to individual communities rather than relying on demand alone.

Biden’s comments came on the same day the administration detailed to governors a shift in how vaccines will be allocated to states.

States previously ordered doses from the federal government and were able to carry over unordered shots if demand ticked up. 

But the new policy means the unordered doses will go into a pool of vaccines for the federal government to send to areas where demand outnumbers supply. 

Some states have recently opted not to order their full allocations as greater percentages of their residents get vaccinated and as outreach becomes more targeted.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccines Joe Biden vaccine equity Vaccine hesitancy
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