WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he moved up his call for all U.S. adults to become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine to April 19, almost two weeks sooner than his initial goal of May 1.
"Everyone is going to be able to do this before the month is out," Biden said, touring a pop-up vaccination site at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria before delivering a warning not to become complacent about the virus.
Biden wants to eliminate any confusion for Americans about whether they are eligible to be vaccinated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“That doesn't mean they will get it that day,” Psaki said. “It means they can join the line.”
The administration is sending a message to seniors – one of the most vulnerable populations – to get their shots if they haven’t because lines are about to become longer. Seventy-five percent of those 65 and older have gotten at least one shot and more than half are fully vaccinated, according to the government.
“You’re doing the right thing,” Biden told Virginians waiting to get vaccinated. He jokingly asked a man about to receive a shot if it would help if Biden held his hand.
"Man, you’ve got biceps as big as my thighs," Biden exclaimed when he saw the man's exposed upper arm.
Using federal guidance on priority populations and projections on vaccine shipments, states have been making their own decisions about when residents can get vaccinated.
Psaki said the faster timeline is possible because of the increased vaccine supply and distribution points.
During the administration's weekly call with governors Tuesday, COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said more than 28 million doses will be distributed across the country this week.
In remarks on the state of vaccinations at the White House later in the afternoon, Biden boasted that the United States is the first country to administer 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, on track to meet the president's goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office.
"But there’s also some bad news," Biden said.
New variants are spreading quickly, in part because it takes time to get everyone vaccinated and also, he said, because too many people "think we're at the finish line already."
The real question, he said, is how much death, disease and misery there will be until most people are vaccinated.
"We're still in a life and death race against this virus," Biden said.
Biden announced last week that 90% of all American adults would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by April 19 and directed the federal government to ensure that the same percentage of Americans live within 5 miles of a vaccination site.
Oregon announced Tuesday that all residents age 16 and older can get the vaccine as of April 19, leaving Hawaii as the only state that hasn't moved up the May 1 deadline.
New York and Maryland opened vaccine eligibility to those 16 or older Tuesday, the day after 12 states did the same:
The USA continues to report a high level of coronavirus cases – 452,636 in the week ending Monday, a 20% increase from two weeks earlier.
The nation has ramped up its pace of daily vaccinations: an average of more than 3 million doses administered a day, compared with less than 1 million in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Biden administration announced that the USA hit 4 million doses administered in a 24-hour period, a record.
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