‘Wartime effort’: Biden boosting vaccine supply to states, buying 200 million more doses
WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden spoke to the nation Tuesday about steps his administration is taking to meet his goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots within his first 100 days in office.
Biden announced a surge in vaccine deliveries to states, along with the news that the federal government is purchasing an additional 100 million doses each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. With existing purchases, the White House expects to be able to deliver enough of the two-dose regimens to states to vaccinate 300 million people.
"This is enough vaccine to vaccinate 300 million Americans by end of summer, early fall," Biden said, calling the push to increase supply a "wartime effort."
Biden also announced a roughly 16% boost in deliveries to states over the coming weeks amid complaints of shortages so severe that some vaccination sites around the U.S. had to cancel tens of thousands of appointments with people seeking their first shot.
He also promised an increased transparency with state leaders and a goal that they will always have a three-week forecast of their vaccine supply.
The president also referred to several executive orders he signed in his first days in office, including the requirement of masks on federal property as well as a new order which requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from all air travelers arriving to the country, including U.S. citizens.
The order, which went into effect Tuesday, applies to both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. All air travelers aged 2 and older must comply with the requirement — regardless of vaccination or antibody status, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden affirmed the need to test travelers "before they get on the plane," and "self quarantine when they arrive in America."
The president also expressed a somber tone acknowledging potential setbacks saying that the pandemic is going "get worse before it gets better."
But despite his warnings that America could see upwards of half a million deaths in the next few months, Biden assured that "help is on the way."
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The U.S. ranks fifth in the world in the number of doses administered relative to the country’s population, behind No. 1 Israel, United Arab Emirates, Britain, and Bahrain, according to the University of Oxford.
On Monday, the president boosted his goal for coronavirus vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, suggesting that the nation could soon be vaccinating 1.5 million Americans on average per day.
Biden added that he expects widespread availability of the vaccines for Americans by spring, with the U.S. being "well on our way to herd immunity" by summer. Even so, he warned the nation was going to be "in this for a while and could see between 600,000 and 660,000 deaths before we begin to turn the corner in a major way."
Biden’s hopeful outlook surrounding vaccinations come as vaccination sites across the country report shortages.
His message on Tuesday comes as Americans express confusion and frustration surrounding the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Even Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden's new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted over last week that she doesn’t know exactly how many shots are in the pipeline just when the pandemic is in its deadliest phase yet.
"I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have," she told "Fox News Sunday," describing the problem as a challenge left by the outgoing Trump administration. "And if I can’t tell it to you, then I can’t tell it to the governors, and I can’t tell it to the state health officials. If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting, not just this week, but next week and the week after, they can’t plan."
On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is "at the mercy of what the federal government sends us" and can't meet growing demand from residents.
Officials in West Virginia, which has had one of the best rates of administering vaccines, said they have fewer than 11,000 first doses on hand even after this week's shipment.
"I’m screaming my head off" for more, Republican Gov. Jim Justice said.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he doesn’t expect the state’s allotment to increase in the coming weeks, which will limit progress in vaccinating those now eligible, including people over 65 and first responders. Rhode Island officials said late last week that they can’t expand eligibility to those over 65 at current allocations, despite complaints from advocates for the elderly.
However medical experts have echoed Biden’s optimism in saying there may be a light at the end of the tunnel during what has seemed to be a never-ending crisis.
According to data through Jan. 25 from Johns Hopkins, the seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. did not increase in the past two weeks, going from 3,242.4 on Jan. 11 to 3,160.9 on Jan. 25.
Last week, in his first press conference under Biden’s administration, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases said he believes cases of COVID-19 in the country "might be plateauing."
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Fauci warned of coronavirus mutations identified in other countries, including Britain, which he says have been found in more than 20 U.S. states. But he said a highly contagious mutation first found in South Africa has not yet been reported in the U.S.
Fauci said coronavirus mutations do not necessarily mean a more deadly strain, but a quick-spreading variant means that vaccination efforts are even more critical to curbing the spread of the virus
Fauci warned that coronavirus variants that can spread more quickly lead to more hospitalizations, which would inevitably lead to more deaths.
"So even though the virus on a one-to-one basis isn’t more serious, the phenomenon of a more transmissible virus is something that you take seriously," Fauci said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.