White House deploys top officials in vaccine blitz


RALEIGH, N.C. — The White House on Thursday engaged in an all-out blitz to urge Americans to get vaccinated, scattering top officials around the country to tout the shots even as the administration has acknowledged it won’t meet its Fourth of July goals for the vaccines.

President Biden toured a mobile vaccination unit and helped launch a community canvassing event on Thursday in North Carolina, a state that has seen a slowdown in residents getting their shots.

Roughly 55 percent of adults in the Tar Heel State have gotten at least once dose, per state health department data, falling well short of the 70 percent thresholds White House officials have pushed for in each state.

“We need more people to get fully vaccinated to finish the job. That’s why I’m here,” Biden said to a room of roughly 200 people in one of his largest in-person events to date as president.

Much of the crowd consisted of people of color, and Biden emphasized the need for vaccine equity and getting the shots to vulnerable populations. The crowd included volunteers who will go out into the community in the coming days to urge local residents to get the vaccine.

“Because of people like you here in Raleigh and across America, we’re going to win this fight,” Biden said.

The president’s trip to North Carolina reflected an administrationwide focus on boosting vaccination rates.

First lady Jill Biden was joined by Anthony Fauci on Thursday for two stops in Florida, another state that has struggled to hit the 70 percent vaccination marker as younger people in particular lag behind in getting jabbed. The two visited a drive-thru vaccination site and highlighted the benefits of getting vaccinated.

Vice President Harris also met virtually with leaders from organizations the administration has teamed up with to boost vaccinations at the local level. A day earlier, second gentleman Doug Emhoff traveled to Chicago for a community vaccination event and he joined Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to highlight the focus on getting young Americans vaccinated.

The White House has deemed June a “month of action” on vaccinations,” but officials on Tuesday acknowledged the administration will not meet its goal of having 70 percent of all American adults receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by July 4. The failure to meet the marker amounted to a rare setback for an administration that has set achievable goals in the pandemic response to date.

Roughly 54 percent of Americans older than the age of 12 had received at least one dose as of Wednesday night, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Roughly 45 percent of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated, meaning they’re at least two weeks out from their final dose.

The pace of U.S. vaccinations has dramatically fallen off in recent weeks, a cause for concern among public health experts who say the nation must be wary of COVID-19 variants that could take hold in parts of the country. Young people in particular have been identified as a group that has lagged behind in getting their shots.

Despite the setbacks, the White House intends to move ahead with an Independence Day celebration next month, an event that officials have long characterized as a duel celebration this year marking the country’s independence and its freedom from the virus.

The Bidens are expected to host more than 1,000 guests at an outdoor celebration at the White House, with first responders, front-line health care workers and military members and their families among those invited. It would mark the largest in-person event Biden has held since taking office after he opted for a scaled-down inauguration and drive-in rallies amid more dire periods of the pandemic.

Still, there is looming cause for concern. Health officials have warned the delta variant of the virus, which is rapidly becoming more prevalent in less vaccinated pockets of the nation, is extremely transmissible, can be much more severe and poses a threat to unvaccinated young people.

Biden on Thursday cited remarks from Fauci calling the delta variant the greatest threat to the nation’s progress against the pandemic.

“The good news is we have a solution,” Biden said. “The science is clear. The best way to protect yourself against the virus and these variants is to be fully vaccinated. It works. It’s free. It’s safe. It’s easy. It’s convenient.”

Tags Anthony Fauci biden vaccine goal coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 Doug Emhoff Florida Illinois Jill Biden Joe Biden North Carolina Vivek Murthy

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