Joe Biden increased his goal of 1 million vaccines a day to 1.5 million Monday, predicting his administration would reach that point ‘soon’ – even though it had been surpassed already on the day he was inaugurated.
The president also predicted that the U.S. would be ‘well on our way’ to herd immunity by the summer, but warned that Americans will be dealing with the coronavirus pandemic into the fall.
The seven-day rolling average for daily vaccinations nationwide is currently at 1.2 million and a record 1.6 million doses were distributed on Biden’s inauguration.
So far the US has administered 22.4 million vaccine doses, which is 54 percent of the 41.4 million shots distributed to states by the federal government. Currently 6.8 percent of the US population has been vaccinated.
Despite the sluggish start, the number of shots being handed out nationwide has only been increasing since the rollout began in mid-December under Trump’s administration. Since January 1, the rolling average of vaccine doses per day has quadrupled.
Asked if his initial target of 100 million doses in 100 days was not ambitious enough Biden said: ‘So I’m quite confident that we will be in a position within the next three weeks or so to be vaccinating people at the range of a million a day or in excess of that.
‘I promised we would get at least 100 million vaccinations. That’s not people. sometimes you need more than one shot, the vaccination.
‘I think with the grace of God, the good will of the neighbor and the creek not rising, as the old saying goes, I think we may be able to get that to 1.5 million a day rather than 1 million a day,’ Biden said.
Biden identified spring as the season when everyone who wants a vaccine would get one – after his press secretary dodged the question hours earlier.
‘I think it will be this spring. I think we’ll be able to do that this spring,’ he continued. ‘But it’s going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we’ve ever tried in this country. But I think we can do that.’
Vaccine promise: Joe Biden upped the target for vaccines to 1.5 million a day ‘soon’ amid questions over whether his incoming administration was lacking ambition, given 1.6m were distributed on the day of his inauguration
The seven-day rolling average for daily vaccinations nationwide is currently at 1.2 million. More than 1 million COVID-19 vaccine shots have been handed out daily in US since Biden’s inauguration
COVID-19 hospitalizations have now fallen to the lowest levels since mid-December and states have reported a sharp drop in new cases and deaths
So far the US has administered 22.4 million vaccine doses. Pictured is a vaccine clinic in Seattle, Washington on Sunday at the Amazon Meeting Center
‘I feel confident that by summer we’re going to be well on our way to heading toward herd immunity and increasing the access for people who aren’t on the list, all the way going down to children and how we deal with that. But I feel good about where we’re going.’
But he tempered his increased expectations with words of warning, noting it’s still ‘gonna take a long time to beat it.’
‘We’re in this for a while,’ Biden said, repeating his prediction deaths would go up to between 600,000 and 660,000. They are currently over 410,000.
His words come after his CDC director warned that the administration’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days may be hindered by the supplies of vaccine doses, and the White House press secretary suggested that officials are unclear on exactly how much vaccine supply there is.
‘I think that the supply is probably going to be the most limiting constraint early on, and we’re really hoping that after that first 100 days, we’ll have much more production,’ Rochelle Walensky, the the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’
‘We’re really hoping we’ll have more vaccine and that will increase the pace at which we can do the vaccinations,’ she said.
Biden said as more people got vaccines the death rate would go down.
‘It’s beginning to move. But I’m confident we will beat this. We will beat this but we’re still going to be talking about this in the summer. We’re still going to be dealing with this issue in the early fall,’ he said.
On Saturday, the United States reported more than 1.3 million newly administered doses of the COVID vaccine, and the tally was more than 1.1 million by late Sunday afternoon, marking the sixth day in a row the country has topped 1 million daily doses.
Biden also repeated his mantra that people should wear face masks.
‘If we wear masks between now and the end of April, the experts tell us we can save 50,000 lives – 50,000 people who otherwise would die,’ he noted.
It comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations fell to the lowest levels since mid-December and states reported a sharp drop in new cases and deaths. On Sunday, there were 1,769 deaths and 130,485 new cases recorded. Just over 110,000 people were hospitalized with the virus.
Even as he repeated his call to ‘shut down’ the virus, Biden talked about boosting testing to reopen schools with kindergarten through eighth grade safely.
‘I believe we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers and for the help that’s in those schools maintaining those facilities,’ Biden said.
His COVID relief plan is calling for new resources to disinfect schools and get them back open, in addition to demanding much more widespread testing.
‘We need new ventilation systems in those schools. We need testing for people coming in and out of the classes. We need testing for teachers as well as students and we need the capacity, the capacity to know that in fact, the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone,’ he said.
He has ordered cabinet agencies to develop guidance for reopening schools. ‘There’s no reason why the clear guidance will be that every school should be thoroughly sanitized – from the lavatories to the hallways,’ he said.
He also pushed back on the idea that teachers or teachers’ unions don’t want to reopen, although some school systems have featured tensions between parents and teachers concerned about risk of exposure.
‘It’s not so much about the idea teachers aren’t going to work. The teachers I know, they want to work,’ said Biden. ‘They just want to work at a safe environment and as safe as we can rationally make it,’ he said.
‘And we can do that. We should be able to open up every school kindergarten through eighth grade if, in fact, we administer these tests.’
Biden’s acknowledgment of the need to ramp up the vaccine target comes after Dr Anthony Fauci, who is Biden’s top COVID-19 adviser, has also said it was ‘floor not ceiling’ goal.
To assist with the rollout, Google has just announced that it will offer up some of its US offices, car parks and open spaces as vaccination centers.
Google will also add COVID-19 vaccine location information to both Maps and Search to help people find more information on where and when they can get a jab.
The tech giant’s four main offices in the US – in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kirkland, Washington and New York City – will be turned into vaccine hubs in collaboration with healthcare provider One Medical.
The office spaces are currently empty given Google’s employees are working remotely until at least July.
‘Today we’re announcing that we’re providing more than $150 million to promote vaccine education and equitable distribution and making it easier to find locally relevant information, including when and where to get the vaccine,’ Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.
‘We’ll also be opening up Google spaces to serve as vaccination sites as needed.’
He said searches for ‘vaccines near me’ has increased five-fold since the start of the year. As a result the tech giant is adding COVID-19 vaccine locations to both its traditional Search feature and Maps.
‘We’ll include details like whether an appointment or referral is required, if access is limited to specific groups, or if it has a drive-through,’ Pichai said.
So far the US has administered 22.4 million vaccine doses, which is 54 percent of the 41.4 million shots distributed to states by the federal government. Currently 6.8 percent of the population has been vaccinated
Google will start immediately showing vaccine hub locations in Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and will gradually expand to include more states and countries.
‘We’ll begin showing state and regional distribution information on Search so people can easily find when they are eligible to receive a vaccine,’ he said.
It comes after Biden signed a series of executive orders last week, including some that target vaccine distribution.
He plans to partner with state and local governments to establish vaccination spots in conference centers, stadiums and gymnasiums.
The new administration will also deploy thousands of clinical staff from federal agencies, military medical personnel and pharmacy chains to increase vaccinations, and make teachers and grocery clerks eligible.
Speaking of Biden’s goal to hand out 100 million doses, Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday: ‘I think it was a reasonable goal that was set, we always want to do better than the goal you set, but it is really a floor and not a ceiling.’
Fauci did, however, admit that it could be a challenge given the logistical hurdles that have already been encountered with the rocky vaccine rollout.
‘If you look forward with the challenges that we will be having, getting it out into the community that is not easily accessible, getting it to people that are not uniform in the sense of being health care providers or people in nursing home, I still think that challenge is really – it’s going to be a floor, not a ceiling. It’s not going to be easy to do that,’ he said.
‘We’ve got to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can as quickly as we possibly can.’
The data shows that no state has over 600 people per million hospitalized with COVID-19 – the first time this has happened since November 3rd
Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said the 100 day goal was just the first step in Biden’s vaccine rollout plan.
‘One-hundred million shots is a bold, ambitious goal, but we need to keep going after that. That is our first goal, it’s not our final goal, it’s not the endpoint, it’s just a metric the American people can watch and measure how we are doing,’ Klain said.
He also claimed there was no vaccine distribution plan set up by the Trump administration in his final months of office.
‘The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House,’ Klain said.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, the new CDC director, admitted on Sunday that the US doesn’t have enough COVID-19 vaccines to meet states’ needs, even as New York and Georgia desperately plead for more doses to inoculate their populations.
‘We don’t have as many doses as we would like now for states like New York, for other states claiming to have run out of the vaccine,’ Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Fox News Sunday.
‘Right now, that is the pressure point that I am feeling and by the end of March or so I really do hope our production scale has scaled up dramatically and that we actually have way more than we have right now.’
It came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said over the weekend that New York was running out of vaccines and Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp asked for more shots to keep up with the demand.
Google will add COVID-19 vaccine location information to both Maps and Search to help people find more information on where and when they can get a jab
Patients wait and are observed for an adverse reactions following their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Amazon Meeting Center in downtown Seattle on Sunday
West Texans line up outside of Ratliff Stadium as they wait to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as part of a mass vaccination clinic put on by the City of Odessa on Sunday
People in their cars line up to wait for a free drive-through vaccine site in Sequim, Washington over the weekend
The vaccine rollout has different from state to state since it began in mid-December.
From California, where distribution has varied from county to county, to New York where the largest city in the nation is running low on supply, states and healthcare providers have struggled to acquire, store and distribute vaccines.
In Florida, thousands of elderly residents have lined for hours given it is a first-come-first served basis in the state.
Shirley Green, 69, reported waiting for 19 hours in her car overnight in order to receive her first dose back on January 4.
‘(It) would have been my brother’s birthday. And he died of COVID in October,’ she told WFTV.
‘And to me, it was my – I don’t know tribute is the right word, or honor to him, (to) try and keep myself safe from all of this ugliness that’s going on.’
Meanwhile in California, Jerry Shapiro, a 78-year-old pharmacist from Los Angeles, has yet to receive his first shot despite being at the top of the list of people now eligible in the state.
Shapiro told Reuters he has spent hours calling multiple health agencies and making fruitless computer searches, an experience familiar to many people across the US.
In Florida, thousands of elderly residents have lined for hours given it is a first-come-first served basis in the state. Shirley Green, 69, reported waiting for 19 hours in her car overnight in order to receive her first dose back on January 4
‘Why not make it easy?’ asked Shapiro, who is also concerned about his wife because of medical conditions that would make her particularly vulnerable to the virus.
‘Have it in your neighborhood. Set up an appointment, get your shot and be done.’
A key problem is organizing the distribution of vaccines to smaller clinics and pharmacies – rather than just to large medical centers and retail pharmaceutical chains.
In California, only a handful of independent pharmacies have been able to acquire vaccines for their customers – generally only in rural areas where the big chain stores are not present, said Sonya Frausto, a pharmacist in the state capital of Sacramento.
Shapiro, who owns an independent pharmacy in downtown Los Angeles, said customers have been calling daily seeking vaccines, but he has to tell them he has no supply.
He and his wife finally made appointments to receive a vaccine on Saturday, after repeated phone calls and hours on hold led them to healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente. The Shapiros are not Kaiser members, but the nonprofit is offering them shots nonetheless, Jerry Shapiro said.
In Sacramento, 65-year-old restaurateur Jami Goldstene would feel a lot safer at her public-facing job if she could get a vaccine. She is technically eligible because of her age, but has yet to be offered an appointment – or even find a way to make one – despite hours on the phone and the internet.
‘It’s very frustrating,’ she said. ‘I want to be over with it. I want to feel safe again.’