Biden renews US Covid-19 vaccination push to counter faltering demand

A man leaves a mobile vaccination clinic bus after getting his Covid-19 vaccine shot, near Brighton beach, New York, on May 29, 2021.
A man leaves a mobile vaccination clinic bus after getting his Covid-19 vaccine shot, near Brighton beach, New York, on May 29, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - US President Joe Biden's administration will work with churches, colleges, businesses and celebrities to boost coronavirus vaccinations in the United States, where demand for the shots has faltered.

In a speech at the White House on Wednesday (June 2), Mr Biden announced a national month of action, including initiatives such as free childcare for people getting vaccinated, extended hours at pharmacies and phone banking to encourage people to get inoculated.

"It's clearer than ever - the more people we get vaccinated, the more success we're going to have in our fight against the virus," Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden has set a target of giving 70 per cent of US adults at least one shot by July 4, when the country celebrates its Independence Day holiday. About 62.9 per cent have received at least one dose so far. The President is on pace to hit his target, barring a sharp new slowdown.

The administration's new effort comes as the pace of US vaccinations has slowed to the lowest level since January, when vaccines were in short supply. The US is now giving out about 1.2 million shots per day, down from a high of 3.4 million from mid-April.

Cases of the virus and deaths have continued to decline. The seven-day average of cases has fallen to roughly 16,000, the lowest level since March last year, data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show.

Mr Biden warned those who are not vaccinated that they could suffer long-term effects from Covid-19.

"If you are vaccinated, you are protected," he said. "If you are not vaccinated, you are not protected."

New initiatives to encourage vaccination include free childcare from four national providers for people getting shots or recovering from side effects. There will also be extended hours at pharmacies, a community canvassing programme and a programme to set up vaccinations at Black-owned barbershops.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris will also embark on a national tour to tout vaccinations.

Mr Biden also touted new incentives, such as a pledge by Anheuser-Busch InBev to give away free beer if the US hits its 70 per cent target, and a sweepstakes by CVS Health Corp. The President also announced a new website, WeCanDoThis.hhs.gov, designed to increase public confidence in vaccines.

Mr Biden, in December, pledged that he would administer 100 million shots in his first 100 days, a pace he essentially inherited when he took office. He more than doubled that target by the first 100 days.

As domestic production outpaces demand, Mr Biden has said he will donate 80 million doses by the end of this month, on top of doses that US manufacturers have begun exporting directly.