Biden Says Number of Unvaccinated in U.S. Is ‘Unacceptably High’
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said the number of unvaccinated Americans remains too high and he called on more businesses to impose mandates even as the number of Covid-19 cases declines.
“We have to do more to vaccinate,” Biden said Thursday at the White House. “Every day, we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements and the mounting data shows that they work.”
He added: “I’m calling on more businesses to step up.”
The president said daily cases of the virus in the U.S. are down 47% and hospitalizations are down 38% over the past two weeks. And while the percentage of vaccinated Americans is increasing, he said the number of unvaccinated remains “unacceptably high.”
U.S. infections are falling after a summer surge driven by the delta variant but experts fear a new wave driven by the holiday season beginning next month, particularly across colder parts of the country. And Biden has sparred with Republican governors who’ve blocked mandates for vaccines or masks in some states.
Meanwhile, there are mixed signals in the U.S. vaccination campaign. The Biden administration says its push to impose employer vaccine mandates has driven a surge of shots in recent weeks, though the pace of new inoculations, excluding boosters, has slowed substantially since they were first available.
About 440,000 people got a first or second shot on Wednesday, down from a pace of millions per day in the spring at the height of the effort. Including booster shots, the U.S. is administering about 800,000 doses a day.
About 77% of eligible people, and 79% of eligible adults, have received at least one shot, according to CDC data. About 66% of eligible people are fully vaccinated, while nearly 5% of that group has received a booster.
Biden called on more parents to get children vaccinated, and for unvaccinated adults to get shots.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is poised to hold hearings Thursday and Friday on booster shots, as well as whether doses can be mixed and matched. The panel will hold another hearing Oct. 26 about opening vaccines up for kids age 5 to 11.
All those hearings are followed by three steps -- FDA review, then a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, followed by a final CDC ruling. ACIP hearings have been set for next week, which could clear booster shots, and the week of Nov. 1, which could open the door to kids’ shots.
Biden underscored that booster shots are free and urged people to get them when they’re available. Biden also said the government has purchased enough vaccine for 5- to 11-year-old children, anticipating that regulators will clear shots for that age group.
“We are headed in the right direction,” Biden said. “We have critical work to do but we can’t let up now.”
Mixing Covid vaccines produces as much or more antibodies as using the same shot as a booster, according to preliminary results made public this week from a U.S. government-sponsored trial. But U.S. regulators didn’t make a recommendation on whether recipients of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine should receive a booster, or which.
“We have the vaccine supply, and we will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as any additional boosters are authorized,” Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said Wednesday.
Biden is imposing a vaccine mandate on federal workers and federal contractors -- a more stringent policy than its predecessor, which offered an alternative where employees could be tested regularly. The administration is also preparing a rule that would require all companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccination or perform weekly testing.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.