WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Joe Biden said Tuesday (April 6) that he wants all American adults to be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, citing a target date all but two states are already set to meet.
"By no later than April 19th in every part of this country, every adult over the age of 18 - 18 or older - will be eligible to be vaccinated. No more confusing rules. No more confusing restrictions," Biden said at the White House.
In anticipation of eligibility opening broadly, he said, the government will provide aid for community groups to transport elderly Americans to vaccination sites. "Seniors. It's time for you to get vaccinated now," he said Biden also said 150 million doses of vaccine were administered within his first 75 days in office, keeping pace with his accelerated goal of getting 200 million shots into arms by his 100th day in office.
In "another 25 days," Biden said during a visit to a vaccination site in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday, "we'll probably have somewhere in excess of 200 million shots that have been administered." He thanked people at the site for receiving shots.
"You're doing the right thing." he told them, adding: "Everyone's going to be able to do this before the month is out."
Every state but Oregon and Hawaii is already scheduled to have opened up vaccines to all non-minors by April 19. Those two states are currently set to meet that target May 1, Biden's previous goal for every US adult to become eligible.
Almost half of US states had opened vaccination to everyone 16 and older by the end of last week. That will rise to 36 by the end of this week. CNN reported that Biden is expected to credit governors' effort to meet his earlier deadline for the updated goal.
Biden said at the vaccination site in Virginia that he hopes the US can begin supplying shots to other countries "pretty soon." "Until this vaccine is available to the world, and we're beating back the virus in other countries, we're not really completely safe," Biden said in his White House remarks.
Biden's administration has been racing to put shots in arms before infection rates spike again, as fresh variants of the virus that are more easily transmitted - and possibly more harmful once caught - spread throughout the US. One variant, known as B117 and originally found in the UK, is now the dominant variant in regions holding two-thirds of the US population.
The head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of "impending doom" as cases have begun to rise again, fuelled in part by states lifting some or all of their restrictions.
Anthony Fauci, a Biden medical adviser, said Tuesday that cases are increasing but don't yet amount to a full new surge.
"There clearly is an increase," Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told MSNBC on Tuesday. "The difference factor that's going on right now, that were different from the surges that we saw last year, is that we have a highly efficacious vaccine now."
Nationwide, vaccinations hit a seven-day average of more than 3 million a day last weekend, and the country logged a 4-million-shot Saturday.
More than 100 million Americans have gotten at least one dose, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, close to a third of the population. The daily rates are expected to rise further as vaccine-makers deliver a promised 700 million doses by the end of July, which is enough for 400 million people.
The US has administered about a quarter of the shots given worldwide so far, buoyed by wartime powers that have allowed Biden and his predecessor to force US vaccine makers to fill their orders first. About 62 million people in the US have been fully vaccinated so far, including 30 million people over age 65, which accounts for 55 per cent of that age group.
Fauci was asked about images from Texas, a state that has opened restrictions and where a baseball stadium appeared full on Monday night.
"We don't want to declare victory prematurely because we have a virus out there now that's variant and spreads really quite efficiently," he said. "And if you pull back on masking and avoiding congregate setting, you're really taking a pretty big risk."