Biden announces 90 percent of adults to be eligible for vaccine by April 19
President Biden announced Monday that 90 percent of U.S. adults will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine and will have a vaccination site within 5 miles of where they live by April 19, while also warning Americans not to let down their guard amid rising cases of COVID-19.
Biden also announced in a speech Monday afternoon that the number of pharmacies in the federal vaccination program will more than double, from 17,000 to 40,000, by the same date.
He had previously set a goal of all U.S. adults being eligible for the vaccine no later than May 1. As supply ramps up, many states have opened up eligibility to all adults well ahead of that date, something that experts had expected given the increasing number of doses available.
Even as there is progress on vaccinations, however, Biden warned that cases are rising again and that people should not let down their guard.
“I’m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor, and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate,” he said. “Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.”
Biden said “we share the sentiment” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, who earlier in the day warned of “impending doom,” from a new surge of cases.
“If we let our guard down now we could see the virus getting worse, not better,” Biden said.
Vaccinations are not yet widespread enough for the country to be completely safe from a new wave of COVID-19.
The administration is also working to increase the number of sites available, including the large expansion of the pharmacy program, intended to make it easy for people to get a vaccine from their local pharmacy.
A dozen more mass vaccination sites, as well as $100 million to help vaccinate at-risk seniors and people with disabilities, are also part of the new efforts.
Being eligible for the vaccine does not necessarily mean someone will be immediately able to get it, as finding an available appointment can take some time.
Still, vaccine supplies are quickly ramping up, and experts say the country will reach a point in the next couple of months where demand starts to outstrip supply, instead of the other way around. The country will have a new high of 33 million doses going out this week, Biden said.
At that point, efforts to reduce vaccine hesitancy and to make it easy for hard-to-reach people to get the vaccine will become even more important.
The country set new records of over 3 million shots per day in recent days. And almost 75 percent of people over 65 have received at least one shot.
Biden urged seniors, “if you’ve not gotten your shot yet, get it this week.”
Ahead of reaching widespread vaccinations, though, more contagious variants, combined with the easing of restrictions, are raising the prospect of a coming surge.
On Sunday, the U.S. officially surpassed 30 million documented coronavirus cases, and Walensky said Monday the seven-day average of new cases is around 60,000 a day, a 10 percent increase over the past week.
“When we see that uptick in cases, what we have seen before is that things really have a tendency to surge, and surge big,” she said.
—Updated at 3:15 p.m.