President Biden on Friday celebrated the U.S. achieving a milestone in the effort against COVID-19 but acknowledged the country still has more work to do against the deadly virus.
Mr. Biden announced that the U.S. has administered 300 million coronavirus vaccine shots in the 150 days since he took office.
“We got here because of the American people stepping up and getting vaccinated; helping family, friends, neighbors get vaccinated,” Mr. Biden said.
But more work needs to be done as the administration is on pace to fall short of the president’s goal of vaccinating at least 70% of adult Americans by July 4.
“If you haven’t got vaccinated yet, get vaccinated now,” Mr. Biden said. “Don’t put it off.”
The Independence Day holiday is two weeks away and about 65% of U.S. adults, or 168 million people, have received at least one vaccine shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 143 million people, or roughly 55% of adults, are fully vaccinated, the CDC said.
But the number of new vaccinations in the U.S. is plummeting, putting in question Mr. Biden’s goal. The United States is averaging fewer than 1 million shots per day, a nearly 75% decline from a peak of 3.4 million in April.
Mr. Biden insisted the failure to meet the 70% vaccination target will not undermine America’s recovery from a pandemic that has already claimed more than 600,000 lives.
The steep decline comes despite the fact that the vaccine is now accessible to anyone over 12 years old. Nearly every state across the country is down at least two-third from its peak infection rate.
Fifteen states, including New York, California, most of the mid-Atlantic states, all of New England and the District of Columbia, have reached the 70% vaccination rate among adults.
Mr. Biden acknowledged that the vaccination rates among Hispanic people and Black people are trailing other ethnic groups. About 8% of Black people and 14% of Hispanic people are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. About 61% of White people are fully vaccinated.
“The more we close the racial gap in vaccination rates, the more lives we’ll save,” he said, adding that the rate has increased among people of color in the past month.
Mr. Biden also pointed a finger at the states with the lowest vaccination rates, saying COVID-19 infections are increasing in those regions. COVID-19 vaccination rates are lagging behind in the South, particularly in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, which have the lowest rates in the country.
The Biden administration has launched an aggressive push to get more citizens to roll up their sleeves for one of three available vaccines.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday stopped at a vaccination pop-up location at a Black church in Atlanta to encourage more people to get the shot and celebrate those who did.
“These vaccines are safe and effective,” Ms. Harris said. “It will save your life and the lives of people that you love. It’s also about ‘Love thy neighbor,’ and that’s what this vaccine is about.”
“Please help us get the word out,” she continued.
Ms. Harris was also attending a vaccination mobilization event at a local university.
Earlier this month, the administration unveiled a slew of giveaways and incentives to entice more Americans to get vaccinated by July 4. Free child care and a credit for a free Anheuser-Busch beer were among the perks offered by the government and businesses to encourage Americans to get vaccinated.
CVS is giving away cruises, the NFL is offering Super Bowl tickets and Major League Baseball is offering on-site vaccinations at games and free tickets to those who get vaccinated.
Some vaccine sites will stay open 24 hours on Friday and arrange free daycare for children while parents get vaccinated.
At a press briefing Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease doctor, said vaccination efforts will continue even as the country starts to reopen.
“We’re going to continue to push vaccination, beyond the Fourth of July, into the summer — so get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can, whether you’re open as a state or a city or not. That’s the goal,” he said.