Biden eyes new goal of 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccinations a day
President Biden appeared to boost his goal for COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, suggesting the U.S. could soon be administering 1.5 million shots per day on average.
Biden signaled his increasing bullishness on the pace of vaccinations after signing an executive order Monday to boost government purchases from U.S. manufacturers. It was among a flurry of moves by Biden during his first full week to show he’s taking swift action to heal an ailing economy.
Biden’s new vaccination target comes after he and his aides faced criticism for his previously stated goal of 100 million inoculations during his first 100 days in office, a pace of 1 million doses per day. The U.S. has exceeded that rate over the last week.
“I think we may be able to get that to ... 1.5 million a day, rather than 1 million a day,” Biden said, “but we have to meet that goal of a million a day.”
Biden added that he expects widespread availability of the vaccines for Americans by spring, with the U.S. “well on our way to herd immunity” necessary to end the pandemic by summer. Even so, he warned that the nation could see between “600,000 and 660,000 deaths [overall] before we begin to turn the corner in a major way.” More than 420,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 so far.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government had distributed 41.4 million vaccine doses to states and other jurisdictions as of Sunday. Of that amount, 21.8 million doses had been administered, or about 53%. About 3.2 million people had received their full two-dose course, a little less than 1% of the population.
The state will accelerate vaccine eligibility based on age under new plan announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Biden also called for faster action by Congress on his proposed $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief and stimulus package, which has showed few signs of legislative progress so far.
Among the features of the plan are a national vaccination program, aid to reopen schools, direct payments of $1,400 to individuals and financial relief for state and local governments.
“There’s an urgency to moving it forward, and he certainly believes there has to be progress in the next couple of weeks,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. She warned that action needed to be taken before the U.S. reaches an “unemployment cliff” in March, when long-term unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans.
But Republicans on Capitol Hill were not joining in the push for immediate action.
One key Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said after a conversation Sunday with Biden that “it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope.” She described the additional funding for vaccinations as useful but cautioned that any economic aid should be more targeted.
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