- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The White House acknowledged Tuesday that it will likely fall short of President Biden’s goal of partially vaccinating 70% of American adults by July 4 but took credit for reaching the goal with those 30 and older.

The missed goal for COVID-19 vaccines is a major blow to the Biden administration, which is also on pace to miss the president’s target of fully vaccinating 160 million adults by Independence Day.

Mr. Biden has called both targets a “huge goal.”

Jeff Zients, head of the White House COVID-19 response team, described the vaccination goals as “audacious,” adding that younger Americans remain skeptical of vaccines.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and has been less eager to get the shot,” Mr. Zients said at a press briefing.

Mr. Zients said the administration has reached the 70% vaccination target among Americans ages 30 and older and is on pace to hit the 70% rate among those 27 years and up by July 4.

“This is a remarkable achievement,” he said.

But it will take a few extra weeks to reach the 70% vaccination target among Americans 18 and older.

As of Tuesday morning, nearly 169 million adults, or 65% of those eligible, have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines. Roughly 144 million adults or almost 56% have received both doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daily vaccination rates have plummeted since a peak of 4.6 million on April 10, falling to about 500,000 in early June, the CDC said.

Despite the waning numbers, Mr. Zients said that Americans will still have reason to celebrate a “truly historic” Independence Day.

Indeed, Americans will spend the Fourth of July holiday very differently than last year now that states are lifting many COVID-19 restrictions.

The White House is planning a large outdoor gathering on that day to honor military members, first responders and other workers who helped fight the pandemic.

The White House last month endorsed a range of incentives from businesses that are encouraging Americans to get vaccinated, such as offering complimentary beer. Still, rural states and minority communities have trailed behind other demographics.

“Our work does not stop on July 4 or when we reach 70%,” Mr. Zients said.

Only about 16 states and the District of Columbia have reached Mr. Biden’s 70% target. Those states include almost all of New England along with the northeast and mid-Atlantic states.

The White House launched an aggressive vaccination push that will continue beyond July 4. First lady Jill Biden on Tuesday traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, and Nashville to encourage residents to get vaccinated. On Thursday, Mr. Biden will travel to North Carolina to push for more vaccinations.

It is unclear if those plans will convince unvaccinated Americans to get the shot. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released last week found that 46% of those who have not been vaccinated have no plans to do.

Administration officials have begun recently warning of the risk of contracting the more contagious and possibly deadlier Delta variant among unvaccinated Americans.

“The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they are a month ago,” Mr. Biden said on Friday. “But the good news is we have the solution. The science and the data are clear: The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get fully vaccinated.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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