President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE announced Tuesday a goal to administer at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of U.S. adults by July 4, as the country moves to vaccinate harder-to-reach Americans.
Biden, in a speech Tuesday afternoon at the White House, also set a goal to have 160 million U.S. adults fully vaccinated by Independence Day.
Together, those goals will mean about 100 million more shots, both first and second doses, across the next 60 days, a senior administration official said.
The goal also acknowledges a slowdown in the pace of vaccinations.
Only about 35 million more adults need to get their first shot to reach the 70 percent goal, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures. Reaching the goal would mean about 180 million adults have at least one dose, up from about 145 million, or 56 percent of the population, currently.
The average number of shots per day has been falling in recent weeks, though it is still at about 2.2 million, according to figures from Our World in Data.
“As we anticipated, the pace of vaccinations is slowing, now that the majority of American adults have already gotten their first shot,” Biden said. “Soon we'll have reached the adults who are most eager to get vaccinated and at that point this effort will shift to a new phase.”
The next phase focuses on people who are hesitant or less motivated to get a shot.
As polls show Republicans with a higher rate of hesitancy than the public overall, Biden pointed to the role of the Trump administration in the vaccines' development.
"Two of our vaccines were authorized under a prior administration — Republican administration," he said.
Biden also pointed to new CDC guidance saying vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outside. Some experts have said the CDC should be more forward-leaning in offering incentives for people to get back to normal once they are vaccinated.
"If we can continue to drive vaccinations up, and case loads down, we'll need our masks even less and less," the president said.
Biden has held out the Fourth of July as a date where he hopes the country will be closer to normal, and reaching 70 percent of adults with one shot will help reach that goal.
He said the new phase has pluses and minuses, in that the country is no longer scrambling to ramp up supply, but instead trying to convince more people to get the shot.
“It's easier because I don’t have to put together this massive logistical effort,” Biden said. “But in the other sense it’s harder because it’s beyond my personal control.”
“It’s going to be harder,” he added.
A senior administration official said that with 70 percent vaccinated, there would be a “sharp decline” in cases, though the official noted that this is a different threshold than “herd immunity.”
There is not an exact known percentage of inoculations for what would constitute herd immunity, but the White House has deemphasized that as a goal, noting that cases will decline as more people are vaccinated.
Even before Biden’s announcement, many states have already lifted many or all of their restrictions, especially in the South. Even the blue states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut jointly announced Monday they would lift most capacity limits on businesses by May 19.
As it looks to vaccinate harder-to-reach people, the White House is also announcing funding and taking other steps to try to increase access and to fight hesitancy.
The administration will direct pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to offer walk-in vaccinations without an appointment, and encourage states to do so. Many states have already moved in that direction.
Almost $250 million will go toward hiring “community outreach workers” to help get people vaccinated, more than $130 million will go toward vaccine education and information, and nearly $250 million will go to state outreach efforts, the White House said.
Vaccine doses will be sent directly to rural health clinics, given that rural areas are a focus in the next phase.
Finally, the administration says it will be ready on “day 1” of authorization to start vaccinating adolescents aged 12 to 15. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon announce the authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for that age group.
—Updated 3:35 p.m.