On the first anniversary of the global COVID-19 pandemic, US President Joe Biden announced that he will direct states to open vaccine eligibility to all American adults no later than May 1, a dramatic acceleration of the national immunization plan that has been sluggish and, at times, chaotic.
“That’s much earlier than expected,” Biden said in a televised, prime-time address. It doesn’t mean every American over age 18 will have their shot by then, Biden cautioned, but you’ll be able to get in line.
The announcement means that carefully crafted prioritizations for vaccines will soon no longer apply. The White House COVID-19 Response Team landed on May 1 for the deadline after concluding that national vaccination efforts would be far-enough along by the end of April to make the prioritizations obsolete anyway.
“If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon,” Biden said, “our economy will be on the mend, our kids will be back in school, and we’ll have proven once again that this country can do anything.”
So far, over 64 million people—about 19 percent of the country—have received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 34 million people—about 10 percent—are fully vaccinated.
With all adults in the country soon eligible to receive a vaccine, Biden also said the administration will increase places and resources for Americans to actually get their shots. The administration will deliver vials to 700 additional health centers, will double the number of pharmacies administering shots, and more than double federally run mass vaccination sites in the next six weeks.
The White House also announced the deployment of more than 4,000 active-duty military to support the vaccination efforts. And tomorrow, the administration will expand the pool of professionals able to administer shots to include: dentists, emergency medical technicians, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists, veterinarians, medical students, nursing students, and other healthcare students.
Last, the administration is working up a website to help people find and register for their shot, as well as a 1-800 number for people who may lack Internet access.
The “war-time” effort is intended to get Americans closer to normal by July 4, a day intended to also celebrate our independence from the virus, Biden said. The effort is fueled by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law hours earlier.
The rescue plan and the accelerated efforts fall one year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Then-President Donald Trump at the time downplayed the threat, however, saying “the risk is very, very low.”
Upon declaring the pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
Nearly 30 million Americans have been infected with the pandemic coronavirus, and a staggering toll of more than 530,000 Americans have died.