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U.S. hits 100 million COVID vaccinations; Biden now aims for 200 million

President Biden speaks at a lectern.
President Biden promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week.
(Associated Press)

The U.S. on Friday cleared President Biden’s goal of administering 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, more than a month before the target date of his 100th day in office. Now the president is prepared to set his sights higher.

With the nation administering about 2.5 million shots per day, Biden, who promised to set a new goal for vaccinations next week, teased the possibility of reaching 200 million doses by his 100th day, April 30.

“We may be able to double it,” he told reporters before leaving the White House for Atlanta. His comments come as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.

As the pace of U.S. vaccinations and supply improves, the nation is in a position to help provide Canada and Mexico with millions of lifesaving shots, the White House said.

The Biden administration on Thursday revealed the outlines of a plan to “loan” a limited number of doses to the neighboring countries.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday that 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would go to Mexico, and 1.5 million would be sent to Canada. He emphasized that because the AstraZeneca shot is not yet authorized in the U.S., “this loan will not reduce the supply of vaccine to Americans.”

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“Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. But she added that “ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is a mission-critical step, is mission critical to ending the pandemic.”

Though it’s not authorized for use in the U.S., the AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization. Tens of millions of doses have been stockpiled in the U.S., waiting for emergency use authorization, sparking an international outcry that lifesaving vaccine is being withheld when it could be used elsewhere. The White House said just 7 million of the AstraZeneca doses are ready for shipment.

The initial doses manufactured in the U.S. are owned by the federal government under the terms of agreements reached with drugmakers, and the Biden administration has faced calls from allies across the globe to release the AstraZeneca shots for immediate use. Biden has also fielded direct requests from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to buy vaccines produced in the United States.

Global public health advocates say wealthy nations like the U.S. need to do far more to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization on Thursday issued a report that fewer than 7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Africa. That’s the equivalent of what the U.S. administers in a matter of days.

Biden did move to have the U.S. contribute financially to the COVAX alliance — backed by nongovernmental organizations like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, along with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations — which will share vaccine with more than 90 lower- and middle-income nations. But the U.S. has yet to commit to sharing any doses.

From his first days in office, Biden has set clear — and achievable — metrics for U.S. success, whether they be vaccinations or the reopening of schools, as part of an apparent strategy of underpromising and overdelivering. Aides believe that exceeding the goals breeds trust in government after the Trump administration’s sometimes fanciful rhetoric on the virus.

The goal of 100 million doses was first announced Dec. 8, days before the U.S. had even one authorized vaccine for COVID-19, let alone the three that have now received emergency authorization. The goal was generally seen as being within reach, if optimistic.

When Biden was inaugurated Jan. 20, the U.S. had administered 20 million shots at a rate of about 1 million per day, bringing complaints at the time that the new president’s goal was not ambitious enough. He quickly revised it upward to 150 million doses in his first 100 days.

Now the U.S. is injecting an average of 2.5 million doses each day — and the pace is likely to dramatically rise later this month in conjunction with an expected surge in supply — putting a goal of 200 million well within reach.

The president has moved to speed up deliveries of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as to expand the number of places to get shots and the people who can administer them, with a focus on increasing the nation’s capacity to inject doses as supply constraints lift.

The risk in setting rosy expectations is that the administration might become defined by its failure to meet them, such as occurred in May 2020, when President Trump said the nation had “prevailed” over the virus.

At the time, the country had seen about 80,000 deaths from the virus. This week, the U.S. death toll topped 538,000. Trump’s lax approach and lack of credibility also contributed to poor adherence to safety rules among the American public.


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