(OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden plans to announce that 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine in three weeks, and that his administration will more than double the number of pharmacies where shots are available, officials familiar with the matter said.
Biden will make the announcement Monday afternoon at the White House, marking April 19 as a new milestone in the vaccination effort. He’ll also say that nearly all U.S. adults will be able to get a shot within 5 miles of their homes, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The announcement comes as the U.S. continues to ramp up its inoculation effort. Biden doubled his goal for vaccines last week after the U.S. reached his initial target six weeks early. The U.S. hit a record three-day stretch of at least 3 million daily shots from Friday to Sunday, and the White House has said its three authorized vaccine producers are all on track to meet their delivery targets this week.
Roughly three-quarters of vaccines still go directly to states, but Biden has steered a growing share to federal channels, including pharmacies, as supply has increased. That shift has allowed Biden to target disadvantaged zip codes as he tries to address disparities in access, often along racial lines.
At the same time, Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans to wear masks and stick with Covid-19 mitigation measures, warning of “impending doom” as cases, hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise again.
Speaking at a press briefing Monday, she fought back tears as she outlined a series of warning signals and said she was frightened about a looming fourth wave of Covid cases. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared,” Walensky said.
The officials cautioned that not all eligible Americans will be immediately able to book an appointment on April 19.
Biden previously directed states to open eligibility to all adults no later than May 1. A total of 31 states have said they will fully open eligibility by April 19. Biden’s announcement Monday is based on those moves — and will mean roughly 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible, the officials said.
Biden has said the U.S. will have enough supply by the end of May to vaccinate all U.S. adults, though administering the shots could take longer. Until recently, eligibility was typically based on age or whether a person had underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk. Full adult eligibility means anyone 16 or older can get the shot, regardless of medical history.
The 7-day average of daily shots administered has climbed to 2.7 million, the highest level yet. Biden has pledged to administer 200 million shots in total under his presidency by the end of next month and is on pace to do that.
Biden will also announce $100 million in funding to help vaccinate vulnerable and at-risk older adults, and people with disabilities, the officials said. The program would be aimed at getting those high-risk people scheduled for, and taken to, vaccine appointments, including those with mobility challenges.
The U.S. vaccine effort is buoyed by vast supplies. The administrations of Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, have used wartime powers to prioritize U.S. government orders.
Biden has said the U.S. will begin sharing shots with other nations once it has enough to cover all U.S. adults, including the potential need for booster shots and a stockpile for children, given the uncertainty over which vaccines will be best for younger age groups.