Every adult in the U.S. will be eligible to sign up for the coronavirus vaccine by April 19, President Biden announced Tuesday, moving up the target date by nearly two weeks as manufacturers continue to pump out shots at a rapid pace.
Many states, including New York, have already opened up vaccine eligibility to all adult residents, but Biden promised at the White House that will be the case for the entire nation by April 19
“No more confusing rules, no more contusing restrictions,” he said. “Beginning April 19, every adult in every state — every adult in this country — will be able to get in line to get a COVID vaccination.”
Last month, Biden said the U.S. would be able to ensure universal vaccine access for adults by May 1.
But a steady surge in production of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines has allowed states to meet the goal earlier than expected, Biden said Tuesday.
“That should give us real hope,” he said.
But the president warned that the race is not won yet.
“Let me deadly serious with you: We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life and death race with this virus,” Biden said before reiterating his plea for Americans to continue to wear face masks, socially distance and wash their hands frequently.
Governors across the country are increasingly allowing residents to reopen businesses, return to school and resume some degree of normalcy, confident that the vaccination campaign is on the cusp of defeating the virus for good.
But the relaxation of COVID-19 precautions is causing infection rates to tick back up in most states, including New York, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitalizations are no longer going down across the board, either, data shows.
COVID-19 death rates remain low as compared to the peak of last year, but hundreds of Americans are still perishing to the virus every week. Nearly 560,000 Americans have died from the virus to date.
Concerns about the COVID-19 resurgence are also heightened by the emergence of new strains and mutations of the virus that are proving more contagious.
Biden has promised that Americans should be able to enjoy small celebrations on July 4, and stressed Tuesday that “better times are ahead.”
But he also warned that a lot can happen before July 4.
“How much death, disease and misery are we going to see between now and then?” he said.
Before announcing the new April 19 deadline, Biden visited a vaccination site at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, chatting with staff, thanking them for their efforts and receiving an update about local inoculation progress.
“That’s the way to beat this,” Biden told staff. “Get the vaccination when you can.”
While at the vaccination site, Biden also reported that 150 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered since his inauguration on Jan. 20, putting the country well on track to meet his goal of injecting 200 million shots by April 30 — his 100th day in office.
Biden’s original goal had been 100 million shots by the end of his first 100 days. The U.S. set a new record with 4 million vaccines administered on Saturday alone.
Though all adults are set to be eligible for a shot by April 19, the Biden administration likely has months to go before most of the country is vaccinated.
“That doesn’t mean they will get it that day,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, referring to April 19. “It means they can join the line that day if they have not already done that beforehand.”
The Biden administration’s vaccination progress comes as the world grapples with a new surge of coronavirus driven by more contagious variants.
Europe is mired in a brutal fourth wave of illness and death, forcing new lockdowns and restrictions. India is also seeing a frightening new surge in cases, while Brazil is enduring by far the darkest days of the pandemic, with 3,000 people a day dying and the dreadful toll rising fast.
The U.S. is the only country in the world to expand vaccine access this quickly, in large part the result of manufacturers being based here.
Biden has drawn some criticism on the international stage for not sharing vaccines with the rest of the world.
But the president said he plans to open up vaccine exports as early as this summer.
“After we are sure of our supply … we are going to give the vaccines around the world, to poor countries,” he said.