Biden to Reach 100 Million Vaccinations Goal Six Weeks Early
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden is poised to meet his goal of delivering 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office as soon as Thursday, reaching the milestone more than a month ahead of time.
As of Wednesday, his 57th day in office, the U.S. had vaccinated nearly 98 million people since Biden’s inauguration. The pace of shots has risen to an average of nearly 2.5 million per day for the last week.
That leaves Biden within grasp of his target on Thursday -- the 58th day of his presidency -- and poised to hit it no later than Friday, barring a major slowdown. He’s scheduled to speak publicly on Thursday afternoon about the state of vaccinations.
With the pace continuing to accelerate, Biden is actually on course to double his goal and see 200 million shots by his 100th day as president, though hiccups in deliveries or rollout of the shots could impact that.
While some Republicans have belittled Biden’s initial goal as a low-ball target, he first made the 100 million shots in 100 days pledge in December, when there was substantial uncertainty about U.S. vaccine approvals, production capacity and deliveries.
He cast the goal as a realistic target, though it was less ambitious than the Trump administration’s baseline predictions. The vaccination campaign began during the Trump administration, and officials had said in December that they thought 200 million doses could be administered by the end of February.
But the inoculation effort began slowly, and only 75 million shots had been given by the beginning of March.
The achievement marks a significant political victory for Biden, who has made fighting the pandemic a cornerstone of his early presidency. And it comes after another win -- passage of his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, which the administration is promoting in a series of trips to electoral battleground states this week.
Biden has begun linking the two, and promised to both cross the 100-million shot milestone and deliver 100 million checks to people over the coming week.
The pace of vaccinations has increased to 2.5 million a day from 900,000 when he took office. Biden has used the rising numbers to both boost shipments to states, and to open and expand other channels for shots, including at pharmacies and Community Health Centers.
The president is banking on the pace of vaccinations accelerating further. He has called on states to make all adults eligible for shots beginning May 1, regardless of age, health conditions or occupations, and he has said the U.S. will have enough doses for them all by the end of May.
Administering the shots will take longer. Biden told ABC News this week that not all adults will have been vaccinated by July 4, another aspirational deadline when he’s said Americans should be able to gather for small parties to celebrate Independence Day if all goes smoothly.
The vaccination campaign continues to face a problem: reluctance to get the shot. Polls suggest Republican men are least likely to get vaccinated. High-profile conservatives including Fox News host Tucker Carlson have raised doubts about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
Large clinical studies have found all of the shots approved in the U.S. are highly effective at preventing serious cases of Covid-19 and practically eliminate hospitalization and death from the disease. Side effects from the shots are fairly common but almost entirely mild, such as pain and rashes at the site of injections or temporary headaches and other flu-like symptoms.
Former President Donald Trump urged Americans to get vaccinated in a Fox News interview on Tuesday, saying that the shots his administration helped develop are “safe” and “something that works.” Trump received his vaccine in private, making him the only living former president to have not publicly done so in a bid to boost confidence.
Biden has steadily ramped up weekly shipments of vaccines, aided by increased production by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. and the recent authorization of a one-dose vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. He expects to have enough doses by the end of March to fully vaccinate 130 million people, though that will depend on the three companies hitting their delivery targets.
Health officials are framing the current effort as a race between vaccinations and emerging variants, or mutations of the virus, some of which are proving more easily transmissible. Biden is hoping to administer enough shots before any new wave of the virus erupts. Several U.S. states have defied federal health officials by lifting mask requirements and other virus precautions -- moves that threaten to fuel new outbreaks.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the U.K. is poised to become dominant in the U.S. by late March or early April.
The number of daily new cases in the U.S. has fallen sharply since January, but still remains well above where officials would like them to be. The U.S. is still averaging around 50,000 new cases a day. Deaths, a lagging indicator, are falling also, but are still at roughly 1,300 per day.
Biden has begged Americans to continue to wear masks, and take other precautions, as the vaccinations ramp up.
“Get the vaccine, number one,” he told ABC. “Number two, stay socially distanced. Number three, wear a mask when you’re out in public. And we’ll get by this and we’ll get by it much quicker than we otherwise would.”
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