White House acknowledges it will fall short of Biden's July 4 coronavirus vaccine goal

The White House acknowledged on Tuesday that the United States is expected to fall short of President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Democrats advance tax plan through hurdles MORE’s stated goal of vaccinating 70 percent of American adults with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsEmployers scramble to secure vaccine verification systems Biden steps into legal fight with vaccine mandates House Democrat proposes vaccine or testing mandate for trains and planes MORE said during a coronavirus briefing that the administration has vaccinated 70 percent of those 30 years old and up with at least one dose and is on track to meet the 70 percent goal among those 27 and older by July 4.

Zients said, however, that it will take “a few extra weeks” to get 70 percent of all adults 18 and over with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, pointing to a greater challenge of convincing those between 18 and 26 to get vaccinated. He did not offer a specific target date.

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He added that the administration would meet Biden’s second July 4 goal of getting 160 million Americans fully vaccinated “no later than mid-July.”

The Biden administration has made significant progress against the virus, with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths declining dramatically since the start of the year. Biden last week marked another milestone, announcing that 300 million coronavirus vaccine shots had been administered in his first 150 days. Biden has received much more positive ratings for his coronavirus response than his predecessor, former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE.

A White House official pointed out that cases and hospitalizations have declined by more than 90 percent since Jan. 20, the date of Biden’s inauguration, and that only about 5 percent of U.S. adults had received one shot of a vaccine when Biden took office. 

The pace of vaccinations has also allowed states and cities to relax coronavirus restrictions, allowing Americans to return to aspects of more normal life. The White House is planning a large outdoor gathering on July 4 for military members, first responders and essential workers that will mark the progress against the pandemic.

“This is amazing progress and has our country returning to normal much sooner than predicted,” Zients said Tuesday. “The virus is in retreat in communities across the country. We are entering a summer of joy, a summer of freedom. This is cause for celebration and that’s exactly what Americans will be able to do on July 4. Celebrate independence from the virus.”

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Still, falling short of the goal represents a setback for Biden, who in May announced a goal to administer at least one dose of vaccine to 70 percent of U.S. adults by July 4 and to have 160 million U.S. adults fully vaccinated by the same day. Currently, just over 65 percent of adults age 18 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine and more than 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have already met Biden’s target for adults 18 and up, a point emphasized by Zients during Tuesday’s briefing. But others, particularly red states, have lagged behind in vaccination rates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that vaccine rates for younger Americans have not reached those for older adults. All adults age 18 and up became eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines in mid-April.

The White House has mounted an aggressive push to encourage vaccinations during the month of June, with top officials including Biden, Vice President Harris and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE crisscrossing the country to encourage those who haven’t gotten the shot yet to become vaccinated.

The administration has taken steps to get vaccines to hard-to-reach Americans and address concerns among those who are hesitant or skeptical and has also tried to incentivize vaccines by partnering with businesses offering promotions for those who get a shot.

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The first lady is traveling to Mississippi and Tennessee on Tuesday to encourage vaccinations and will stop at a pop-up vaccination site with singer-songwriter Brad Paisley. Biden is traveling to North Carolina on Thursday as part of the vaccination push.

The new Delta variant has also added urgency to the White House’s efforts to get more Americans vaccinated.

“It’s a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier, and particularly dangerous for young people,” Biden said in remarks from the White House last week. “But the good news is, we have the solution. The science and the data are clear: The best way to protect yourself against these variants are to get fully vaccinated.”

Officials emphasized on Tuesday that the White House would continue its efforts to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible and that the administration’s work would not stop once Biden’s 70 percent goal is fulfilled.

It’s unclear how effective the White House’s strategies will be to convince unvaccinated Americans to get the vaccine. An Associated Press-NORC poll released last week found that of those who have not gotten vaccinated, 46 percent say they will definitely not get a vaccine and 29 percent say they probably will not do so.

Updated at 1:25 p.m.