The Health 202: Biden’s vaccination goal sounds ambitious. It’s actually pretty realistic.

President Biden is requiring states to make every U.S. adult eligible for the coronavirus vaccine starting 50 days from now.

The president announced that intention – and reiterated his promise that there will be enough for every American adult by the end of May – in a prime time address last night marking the first anniversary of the coronavirus outbreak being declared a pandemic.

That all may sound ambitious. But, like Biden’s previous vaccination goal of 100 million immunizations in 100 days, this one is also within the realm of possibility – reflecting the president’s inclination to underpromise while aiming to over-deliver.

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At the current rate, the number of administered shots will more than double by May 1.

So far, around 97 million shots have been administered in the U.S., resulting in 64.1 million people getting at least one shot, with half of them fully vaccinated.

Officials say the pace is about to accelerate.

Biden also based his May targets on Moderna and Pfizer projections that their manufacturing will scale up in the next few weeks, along with promised new shipments of the recently-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single dose.

“In a contract secured last year by the Trump administration, Johnson & Johnson committed to delivering 100 million doses of its one-shot vaccine by the end of June — and 87 million by the end of May,” Dan Diamond and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. “It is now expected to deliver slightly more in that time frame, after senior Biden administration officials pressured one of its subcontractors to put more resources into bottling the product.”

“Pfizer, for instance, had been indicating for several months it could scale to more than 13 million doses a week, according to one federal official — a rate that, if maintained, would easily allow it to supply 80 million doses in April and May, after delivering 120 million by the end of March. The company also won approval in January to count six doses in each of its vials, rather than five.”

Biden warned the expanded eligibility doesn’t mean everyone will be able to get a shot right away.

“Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately, but it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1,” he said. “Every adult will be eligible to get their shot.”

The states have taken similar approaches to making people eligible for shots, although they’ve worked their way through priority tiers at different paces, depending on how quickly they were able to administer vaccines. Senior administration officials said Biden has the authority through the Department of Health and Human Services to require states to open up eligibility for everyone. They stressed that it won’t be merely a suggestion, but rather a directive states need to abide by.
Biden also declared a goal of allowing small celebrations on July 4.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden lamented the pandemic’s huge toll on Americans and laid out where he hopes to go from here.

The Post’s Libby Casey:

He ticked through a series of new actions he intends to take to combat the virus in the spring and summer, including creating a “find a vaccination” website and allowing dentists, veterinarians and other health professionals to administer doses. He announced new efforts to open vaccination sites, allow more people to administer the vaccines, get kids back in schools and ease the process of finding where to get a shot.

Atlantic writer James Hamblin:

“Biden’s speech, clocking in at 24 minutes, served as an inflection point on the 51st day of his presidency,” Sean Sullivan writes. “The president had spent his first few weeks carefully managing expectations for recovery and frequently blaming the Trump administration for many of its early challenges, criticisms he renewed indirectly on Thursday night. But Biden took greater ownership of the pandemic battle — and exposed himself to a potential backlash if he does not deliver.”

“If we do our part, if we do this together, by July Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your family and friends can gather in your backyard and have a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said. “After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”

The Post’s Matt Viser:

Business Insider reporter Jake Lahut:

The Post’s Dan Diamond:

Biden said more pharmacies and community health centers will get direct shipments of vaccine doses.

The president promised to double the number of pharmacies getting the shipments, to 20,000 locations around the country.

The aim of the initiative, which includes 21 participating pharmacy chains, is to get shots into arms faster without going through the states first. Under a system set up under the Trump administration, much of the supplies have gone to states to distribute — an approach that has worked better in some states than others. The Biden administration hasn’t dismantled that system, but has tried to supplement it with the direct shipments to pharmacies.

“There’s probably some political grumbling from some quarters about the federal government making a decision to do that,” Gottlieb said. “I think it was the right decision.”

Scott Gottlieb, MD, thinks the Biden Administration is doing well with covid response
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, says he thinks the Biden Administration is doing well in its coronavirus response so far. “I think they’ve made good decisions that were, in some cases, difficult decisions. One that isn’t so obvious is they made the decision to start distributing the vaccine through pharmacies and community health centers through the federal channel.” (Washington Post Live)
Pharmacies aren’t the only providers getting vaccine doses directly.

Shipments are also going to community health centers, which serve millions of low-income Americans who could otherwise have trouble gaining access.

The administration said it will start sending vaccines directly to 950 such centers, up from 250 centers who were receiving shipments initially. Some of the community health centers will also be sending out mobile vans to deliver services in the hardest-to-reach communities.


Stephanie Cureton

Stephanie O. Cureton is from Arlington VA and has always been interested in figuring out new things and that led them to science reporting. Stephanie researches and reports on new tech and AI related medical news. She also enjoys video games and reading.

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