In a Tuesday afternoon speech, President Joe Biden set a new goal of having 70% of American adults having at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by July 4.
The new goal would see about 100 million more shots in the next 60 days, a reasonable goal given that 2.2 million Americans per day are currently receiving a vaccine.
About 35 million more Americans would need to get their first vaccine dose in that time period, for a total of 180 million. Biden would also like to see 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by that date.
“As we anticipated, the pace of vaccinations is slowing, now that the majority of American adults have already gotten their first shot,” Biden said. “Soon we’ll have reached the adults who are most eager to get vaccinated and at that point this effort will shift to a new phase.”
Addressing vaccine hesitancy
The administration will be increasing efforts to reach people who have expressed vaccine hesitancy, which polls put at about 20% of American adults.
Biden tried to reach out to Republicans, who have had the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy, by reminding them that the first two vaccines approved by the FDA for emergency use were developed under the previous, Republican-led administration.
“Two of our vaccines were authorized under a prior administration — Republican administration,” he said.
He also tried to appeal to those who want to be done wearing masks. “If we can continue to drive vaccinations up, and case loads down, we’ll need our masks even less and less,” the president said.
Administration officials said a 70% vaccination rate would not be enough to reach herd immunity, but that the number of new cases would likely decline sharply at that rate.
Many states are already ending restrictions as more of their populations get vaccinated, especially in the South, and it seems to be making no difference in their new case rates.
The administration plans to spend $250 million on “outreach workers” to encourage vaccination, but has stopped short of a mandate.
Rural areas are the next places of focus, and vaccine doses will be sent directly to clinics in rural areas in coming weeks.