Contribute Try STAT+ Today

WASHINGTON — The White House will compel state, local, and tribal governments to make all American adults eligible to sign up for Covid-19 vaccines no later than May 1, President Biden said on Thursday.

The Biden administration has previously issued non-binding directions or recommendations on Covid-19 mitigation measures like mask use or school reopenings. But the aides stressed that, using the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, its vaccine order will be binding, and states’ compliance will be mandatory.

The goal, Biden aides told reporters on a conference call, is to allow Americans to gather in relative normalcy by July 4.

advertisement

“Because of all the work we’ve done, we will have enough vaccine for all adults in America by the end of May,” Biden said. “That’s months ahead of schedule, and we are mobilizing thousands of vaccinators to put the vaccine in one’s arm.”

The announcement marks the Biden administration’s most aggressive pledge yet on vaccine availability. Upon his inauguration on Jan. 20, Biden pledged the country would administer 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office — a mark the country is set to pass within weeks, well in advance of the deadline. Biden said last week that there would be enough vaccines for all American adults seeking them by May, though he stopped short of pledging that all those seeking vaccines would be eligible to receive them.

advertisement

The U.S. is currently administering over 2 million vaccines per day, and manufacturing scale-ups from the manufacturers of the three currently authorized for use — two-dose regimens made by Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership, and a one-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson — mean that number will likely grow in the coming weeks and months.

Biden pledged, moving forward, that the U.S. will maintain its pace of at least 2 million vaccines per day, stressing that the country is easily on track to pass his initial 1-million-per day goal. (In fact, the country was administering nearly 1 million vaccines per day even before Biden’s inauguration.)

“When I came into office, you may recall, I set a goal that many of you said was, kind of, way over the top,” Biden said. “I said I intended to get 100 million shots in arms in my first 100 days in office. Tonight, I can say we’re not only going to meet that goal — we’re going to beat that goal.”

The announcement came just hours before Biden was set to make a primetime address marking the anniversary of widespread coronavirus-related shutdowns in 2020.

During the press call, Biden aides also outlined a broader acceleration of the vaccination effort. The government will double the number of retail pharmacies participating in the vaccine rollout, meaning 20,000 commercial sites will offer Covid-19 immunizations.

It will also double the number of federally backed mass vaccination centers, and deploy an additional 4,000 active-duty military personnel to assist in the vaccine effort, bringing the total number of troops involved to 6,000.

The administration will also attempt to expand the pool of professionals who can give vaccines to include paramedics, physician assistants, veterinarians, and dentists, and medical students, including some training for non-physician positions.

HHS will also launch a new website to help Americans find available vaccines, the aides said.

Much of Biden’s address is set to focus on the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package that Biden signed into law on Thursday. The administration said it would use $50 billion from that bill to invest in a testing effort aimed at helping schools quickly reopen.

Separately, the administration will direct funds toward scaling up screening tests in congregate settings like homeless shelters and prisons, and fund a new ramping-up of at-home tests that individual Americans could use outside a medical setting.

On the call, Biden officials also announced they would use an additional $1.7 billion in the relief bill to expand genomic sequencing infrastructure used to detect coronavirus variants that are potentially more transmissible, or less deterred by existing vaccines.

  • This is excellent and encouraging news. Which is why I am so grateful Trump is out of office now because this kind of thing would almost guaranteed not happen under Donald Trump.

  • I appreciate this article is inherently somewhat political and perhaps STAT did not went to make it more so, but candid assessments of the speech by experts -perhaps anonymously – would be interesting.
    I am far from an expert but wanted to make a few observations:
    1. Unless I missed it, he never used the word “Variant’ or any synonym. I can well understand it is discouraging to read about the variants and how they may escape natural immunity caused by previous infection with first wave type, and maybe vaccines -but certainly the outbreak in Manaus seems to indicate that is going on.
    Biden asked us to keep using masks – which I agree with – but without being told there are variants, why would a person who has been told they were sick last summer – confirmed Covid infection – believe they need a mask? One need not be of any particular political persuasion – I contend that a person from the Sentinel Islands, if informed about the basics of learned immunity and told he had been infected before, would not feel the need for a mask.
    So, my take is, in order to avoid saying anything negative, Biden left out the most important reason for continuing to wear masks – even if you were sick already, even if you got a full course of vaccine. This was a very serious ommission.

    • 2. The “everyone is eligible by May 1” statement. As best I can tell, that is completely meaningless. As he said, that will mean no matter who you are, you will get to sign up beginning May 1, not that you will have the vaccine – as he said, you will be able to get on a waiting list. And it is not clear those who sign up after May 1 will be given vaccine on a purely first-come, first-served basis. You might be put higher on the list if you are in a higher risk category.
      Either way, this seems to have no meaning at all. As far as when people can actually get the shots, there is no reason to think being able to sign up starting May 1 will mean those who do will get the shots one minute sooner. It is just an “order” that states get their acts together to make their online appointment systems work by then. If i am wrong, that would be interesting information for a lot of people, so let me know.

    • 3. Relaxation of travel and social restrictions.
      Again, we have Biden saying vaccines are our salvation -but then saying, even if vaccinated, there is enough danger remaining to not meet up until July 4. This will not make sense to people – If you are vaccinated, and hear about 95% efficacy – you are going to wonder why you have to wait until July 4 to visit, and only ‘in small groups”. A completely rational person is going to ask themselves this question – and without escape variants, there is no good reply – “Sorry Mr. Smith, I know you have felt lonely and depressed the last year, and you got a full course of 95% efficacious vaccine, and the epidemic is down to about 60,000 cases per day – which sound like a lot but actually means only 1 in 500 people is actively contagious – but you have to wait until July 4 to see your family” – WHY? I believe he is discrediting himself without some good explanation.

  • there is a distinct difference between covid 19 vaccines available and how many citizens have actually been vaccinated twice with two injections

  • I heard Biden’s announcement but your reporting is not quite accurate. Biden promised vaccine availability to all Americans by May. Your reporter says all adults. The virus doesn’t care about nationality. It is a public health issue that ‘illegals’ can catch and spread infections. Are they eligible for vaccination? If so can they get the vaccination without risk of deportation?

    • Technically, your Comment is correct, that is, illegal aliens can “catch and spread infections” but with the authorities in the US staying with two doses for Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations, and therefore, achieving, we are told again and again, 95% efficacy – maybe higher from some reports- if you vaccinate people in the country legally – then only 5% of them are susceptible to illness from the illegals spreading it.
      It is kind of like the situation in my state where a 20 year old thug in jail is getting vaccinated before 80 year olds- in theory, the guards in jail are safer if the inmates are all vaccinated -but with 95% efficacy of vaccines, they are extremely safe- especially if you put guards with risk factors away from prisoners for a few months -right now.
      So, I favor Biden giving vaccines to “American’s” first – If only it was true, of course he was lying about that.

Comments are closed.