May 7, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Biden says U.S. COVID-19 shots campaign enters ‘new phase’

Amid a worrisome dip in Americans getting COVID-19 shots, President Biden said the U.S. vaccination effort is entering a “new phase,” with the administration making it easier to get a vaccine, including by unveiling a new federal website to get appointments and directing pharmacies to allow walk-ins.

“There are millions of Americans who just need a little bit of encouragement to get the shot,” he said.

The new initiatives, which come with hundreds of millions of federal dollars for local community groups and public education campaigns, are being rolled out at a time when vaccination rates are dropping after initial high demand. The average number of shots administered daily has dropped by roughly one-third in the last three weeks, from 3.4 million to 2.3 million, according to statistics compiled by Bloomberg.

A senior administration official, who declined to speak on the record before Biden made his public remarks from the White House, downplayed the slower pace, saying, “This is what we anticipated as we entered this phase.”

The official said the people most eager to be vaccinated have already received at least one dose, and more than two-thirds of Americans who are at least 65 years old are fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 56% of all adults have gotten at least one dose.

“There are tens of thousands of Americans who are alive today who would not be alive otherwise had they not had access to a rapid vaccination program,” Biden said.

He said the federal government would “move immediately” to make the Pfizer vaccine available to Americans as young as 12 years old, if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes it. It’s now available to anyone at least 16 years old.

But the struggle to break through many Americans’ vaccine hesitancy is apparent in the less ambitious target that Biden announced. He called for 70% of adults to receive at least one dose by July 4, an increase of about 35 million shots over two months.

Regional differences could become more stark in the coming weeks and months, reflecting how politicized the anti-pandemic measures have become. Republican-led states in the South have lower vaccination rates than Democratic-led states in the Northeast and the West, and some states aren’t ordering their full allotment of doses because of lower demand for shots among their residents.

Going forward, the Biden administration will redistribute any doses that states don’t claim, an administration official said. The shift could provide an incentive for lagging states to find ways to boost demand, or focus supplies on states where more residents are eager to get a shot, allowing the nation to keep up its inoculation pace.

Biden plans to announce $250 million in funding for community organizations to answer questions about vaccines and help arrange appointments to get shots. Another $250 million will go to assist states, cities and territories, and $130 million will be provided for additional vaccine education in underserved communities.

Another senior administration official said young people who may not feel threatened by the coronavirus would be encouraged to get vaccinated.

“Even if you don’t get any symptoms, you are part of the chain of transmission, and you are propagating the outbreak,” the official said.

The goal, the official said, is to “box the virus in,” by eliminating opportunities for it to jump from person to person.