President Joseph R. Biden Jr., on the ‘Anniversary of the Covid-19 Shutdown,’ hoursafter signing his American Rescue Plan Act into law, restated the steps his administration has taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic before laying out the next phase of his vaccine offensive. Of first order is his goal for every adult in America to be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine by May 1. “I will direct all states, tribes, and territories to make all adults – people 18 and over – eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1….That’s much earlier than expected,” Biden declared.
He clarified what he meant by “eligible” saying, “That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately, but it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1.”
From past to the present
In December, then President-elect Biden stated his goal of nationally administering “a million shots a day”. For reference, the first Covid-19 vaccines were administered to health workers on December 14. Now, he is confident the U.S. will surpass its world beating “current pace of two million shots a day”.
In terms of total vaccinations, the U.S. will also, according to Biden, reach his goal of “100 million shots in people’s arms” just 60 days after he took office, far earlier than his initial promise of 100 days – as of yesterday, the U.S. had administered 98.2 million doses with just under 34 million people (10% of U.S. population) fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
The day of Biden’s inauguration, just over a month after the first doses were administered, the U.S. had distributed 35.6 million doses and had administered 16.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, Reuters reported.
“Just 14 percent of Americans over the age of 75” and 8 percent of those “over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccine,” Biden said, citing priority groups in his address. Now, he says, 70 percent and 65 percent, of those groups, respectively, have received their first shots.
Despite some progress on administering Covid-19 vaccines, the Trump administration had lacked any sort of plan for vaccine rollout. ‘There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,’ a source for CNN had said regarding the Biden administration’s dual challenge of organizing and implementing a vaccine rollout strategy while simultaneously working to ramp up production, distribution, and administration of vaccines.
Where to, Joe?
Notwithstanding marked progress on vaccine distribution and administration since Biden took office, there remain several impediments to Covid-19 vaccine glory: adequate supply of vaccines, vaccine accessibility, and public trust in vaccine efficacy.
Concerning the supply of vaccines, the Biden administration is working with three vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – “to purchase hundreds of millions of doses” of their vaccines. After news that Merck, a pharmaceutical company, and Johnson & Johnson would jointly produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, President Biden – after a meeting yesterday with CEOs from both companies – announced it would purchase an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine, doubling its initial order.
The extra doses are said to serve as a defense against “manufacturing disruptions” or “outbreaks of coronavirus variants”; the order is not expected “to be fulfilled until the second half of the year,” the Washington Post reported. That brings the total number of vaccines ordered to 800 million, – 600 million of which will come from Pfizer-BioNTech and Morderna –, more than enough to vaccinate the estimated 260 million adults in the U.S.
“We’ll have enough vaccine supply for all adults in America by the end of May,” Biden said yesterday, adding that was “months ahead of schedule”.
There are a number of measures the Biden administration is taking to bolster vaccine administration capacity. These include the “mobilizing of thousands of vaccinators,” – from active duty military to retired doctors to nurses; distributing vaccines to nearly 10,000 local pharmacies and 600 “federally supported” mass vaccination sites including stadiums and parking lots, and to “hundreds community health centers…located in underserved areas”. Pop-up clinics will also increase the convenience of receiving a vaccine.
Despite the headway of the Biden administration, it’s not clear when the majority of the country can expect to be vaccinated, let alone ‘return to normal’. As my source – a registered nurse – commented moments after President Biden delivered his remarks, it takes 3-4 weeks (21 days for Pfizer and 28 for Moderna according to the FDA) for people to receive both doses and approximately 2 weeks (4 weeks for Johnson & Johnson according to its tests) after the last vaccination to achieve immunity. They were also concerned that by saying “every adult will be eligible by May 1,” people might assume – erroneously – they could get vaccinated immediately, which could put undue stress on health care workers.
Lets see how far we’ve come
Exactly one year ago yesterday, there were a reported 1,000 cases and 30 deaths in the U.S. Now, there have been just over 29 million cases and 527, 726 deaths – “more deaths than in World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War, and 9/11 combined”.
Curiously, a year ago, then-President Trump had made similar remarks regarding the trajectory of the pandemic as President Biden did yesterday. “We had a great meeting today with a lot of the great companies, and they’re going to have vaccines. I think relatively soon…and that’s actually going to actually take place, we think, even sooner,” he said on March 2, 2020. A week later he said, “We’re doing a great job with it….It will go away,” before announcing the pandemic would have subsided come Easter Sunday. Under a new administration, the hope now is that Americans will be able to celebrate the 4th of July in small groups; that is, of course, assuming we listen to Dr. Fauci.