President implements next phase of national strategy to ‘put the pandemic behind us’; directs states, tribes & territories to make all adults eligible for vaccine by May 1
Thursday night, in his first primetime address, President Joe Biden announced the next phase of a “war-time effort” to vaccinate the U.S. population, with the goal of getting the nation closer to “normal” by July 4, Independence Day.
The president launched a new, comprehensive strategy to beat this pandemic on Jan. 21. In the subsequent seven weeks, more than 81 million vaccinations have been delivered to Americans. Biden outlined the next phase of his whole-of-government strategy to end the pandemic, which began one year ago.
As part of his speech, the president said, “For all of you asking when things will get back to normal, here is the truth: The only way to get our lives back, to get our economy back on track is to beat the virus.
“You’ve been hearing me say that for – while I was running and the last 50 days I’ve been President. But this is one of the most complex operations we’ve ever undertaken as a nation in a long time.
“That’s why I’m using every power I have as President of the United States to put us on a war footing to get the job done. It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it: a war footing.
“And thank God we’re making some real progress now.
“On my first full day in office, I outlined for you a comprehensive strategy to beat this pandemic. And we have spent every day since attempting to carry it out.
“Two months ago, this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or near all of the American public. But soon we will.
“We’ve been working with the vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson – to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses of these three safe, effective vaccines. And now, at the direction and with the assistance of my administration, Johnson & Johnson is working together with a competitor, Merck, to speed up and increase the capacity to manufacture new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is one shot.
“In fact, just (Wednesday) … I met with the CEOs of both companies – I announced our plan to buy an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines. These two companies – competitors – have come together for the good of the nation, and they should be applauded for it. It’s truly a national effort, just like we saw during World War II.
“Now because of all the work we’ve done, we’ll have enough vaccine supply for all adults in America by the end of May. That’s months ahead of schedule.
“And we’re mobilizing thousands of vaccinators to put the vaccine in one’s arm. Calling on active-duty military, FEMA, retired doctors and nurses, administrators, and those to administer the shots.
“And we’ve been creating more places to get the shots. We’ve made it possible for you to get a vaccine at … any one of nearly 10,000 pharmacies across the country, just like you get your flu shot.
“We’re also working with governors and mayors, in red states and blue states, to set up and support nearly 600 federally supported vaccination centers that administer hundreds of thousands of shots per day. You can drive up to a stadium or a large parking lot, get your shot, never leave your car, and drive home in less than an hour.
“We’ve been sending vaccines to hundreds of community health centers all across America, located in underserved areas. And we’ve been deploying and we will deploy more mobile vehicles and pop-up clinics to meet you where you live so those who are least able to get the vaccine are able to get it.
“We continue to work on making at-home testing available.
“And we’ve been focused on serving people in the hardest-hit communities of this pandemic – Black, Latino, Native American and rural communities.
“So, what does all this add up to? When I took office 50 days ago, only 8% of Americans – after months – only 8% of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is (nearly) 65%. Just 14% of Americans over the age 75, 50 days ago, had gotten their first shot. Today, that number is well over 70%.
“With new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the CDC – that came out on Monday, it means simply this: Millions and millions of grandparents who went months without being able to hug their grandkids can now do so. And the more people who are fully vaccinated, the (CDC) will continue to provide guidance on what you can do in the workplace, places of worship, with friends, and as well as travel.
“When I came into office, you may recall, I set a goal that many of you said was kind of way over the top. I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days in office. Tonight, I can say we are not only going to meet that goal, we’re going to beat that goal. Because we’re actually on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots in arms on my 60th day in office. No other country in the world has done this. None.
“Now I want to talk about the next steps we’re thinking about.
“First, tonight, I’m announcing that 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.
“Let me say that again: All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. That’s much earlier than expected.
“Let me be clear: 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. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot.
“To do this, we’re going to go from a million shots a day that I promised in December, before I was sworn in, to … beating our current pace of 2 million shots a day, outpacing the rest of the world.
“Secondly, at the time when every adult is eligible in May, we will launch, with our partners, new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot, including a new website that will help you first find the place to get vaccinated and the one nearest you. No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.
“Thirdly, with the passage of the American Rescue Plan – and I thank again the House and Senate for passing it – and my announcement last month of a plan to vaccinate teachers and school staff, including bus drivers, we can accelerate the massive, nationwide effort to reopen our schools safely and meet my goal, that I stated at the same time about 100 million shots, of opening the majority of K-8 schools in my first 100 days in office. This is going to be the No. 1 priority of my new secretary of education, Miguel Cardona.
“Fourth, in the coming weeks, we will issue further guidance on what you can and cannot do once fully vaccinated, to lessen the confusion, to keep people safe, and encourage more people to get vaccinated.
“And finally, fifth, and maybe most importantly: I promise I will do everything in my power; I will not relent until we beat this virus – but I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part. And that’s not hyperbole. I need you.
“I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family and friends and neighbors get vaccinated as well.
“Because here’s the point: If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together.
“After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.
“But to get there, we can’t let our guard down.”
Biden cautioned conditions could get worse if people don’t get a vaccine and instead become lackadaisical when it comes to wearing masks, social distancing and hand-washing.
“The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread,” he said. “And we’ve got work to do to ensure everyone has confidence in the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines.
“So my message to you is this: Listen to Dr. Fauci, one of the most distinguished and trusted voices in the world. He has assured us the vaccines are safe. They underwent rigorous scientific review. I know they’re safe. Vice President Harris and I know they’re safe. That’s why we got the vaccine publicly in front of cameras, for the world to see, so you could see us do it. The first lady and the second gentleman also got vaccinated.
“Talk to your family, your friends, your neighbors – the people you know best who’ve gotten the vaccine.
“We need everyone to get vaccinated. We need everyone to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing the masks as recommended by the CDC. Because even if we devote every resource we have, beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity.
“And national unity isn’t just how politics and politicians vote in Washington or what the loudest voices say on cable or online. Unity is what we do together as fellow Americans. Because if we don’t stay vigilant and the conditions change, then we may have to reinstate restrictions to get back on track. And, please, we don’t want to do again.
“We’ve made so much progress. This is not the time to let up. Just as we are emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer is not the time to not stick with the rules.”
How This Works
Biden said, “The development, manufacture and distribution of the vaccines in record time is a true miracle of science. It is one of the most extraordinary achievements any country has ever accomplished.”
His team released the following details, with regard to vaccination implementation:
•Make every adult in the U.S. eligible for vaccination no later than May 1. The White House COVID-19 response team has concluded its accelerated vaccination efforts will enable prioritized vaccinations to be far enough along by end of April that all eligibility restrictions for vaccinations can be lifted by May 1.
Once all Americans are eligible to be vaccinated, the administration will ensure every adult is actually able to get the vaccine by:
•Increasing the number of places Americans can get vaccinated. With the resources available through Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the administration will ramp up efforts to create more places for people to get vaccinated, reaching the hardest-hit and hardest to reach populations.
√ Community health centers: Over the next six weeks the administration will deliver vaccines directly to up to an additional 700 community health centers that reach underserved communities, increasing the total number of participating community health centers across the country to 950. These health centers serve low-income and minority patients, provide services to rural communities and tribal communities, and many will utilize mobile vans to deliver services.
√ Pharmacies: The administration will double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program, making the vaccine available at more than 20,000 pharmacies in locations convenient to all Americans. The administration is directing pharmacies to expand mobile operations into the hardest-hit communities to reach more people.
√ Community vaccination centers: The administration will more than double the number of federally run mass vaccination centers, run by FEMA, the U.S. military, and other federal agencies in partnership with states, to ensure the hardest-hit communities are reached in this historic effort. Many of these sites will be the home base for mobile units that will travel into local communities to provide vaccines directly in underserved populations. With these mobile clinics, the administration will work with states to make up to one-third of each site’s daily vaccinations available directly in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the administration will also increase support for state and local-run community vaccination centers. As a result of these added investments, community vaccination centers will be capable of administering hundreds of thousands of shots a day, building on the nearly 600 centers across the country already operating with federal support.
•Increasing the number of people providing and supporting vaccinations. Biden announced the deployment of more than 4,000 active duty troops to support vaccination efforts, bringing the total to over 6,000 in all. On Friday, the administration will expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots to include: Dentists, advanced and intermediate emergency medical technicians, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists and veterinarians, as well as medical students, nursing students, and other health care students in the previously listed professions under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will launch a new website to help individuals determine whether they are eligible to sign up to volunteer to administer shots.
•Providing tools to make it easier for individuals to find a vaccine. The president announced steps to make it easier for individuals to find a vaccine near them and address some of the barriers to getting vaccinated.
√ Find a vaccination website: By May 1, as vaccines are available in more places, the administration will launch a federally supported website that will show the locations near them that have vaccines.
√ 1-800 number: To offer a tool for those who may lack Internet access, the administration will launch a call center by May 1 to provide guidance and assistance with finding a vaccine.
√ Technical support to improve existing state websites: Since many Americans use their state websites to schedule appointments, the administration will also deploy technology teams to states who need assistance to improve their websites.
•Providing clear guidance to vaccinated Americans. COVID-19 efforts will always be guided by science and the step-by-step approaches to get Americans back to the important people and activities in their lives that they have been missing. The president announced the CDC will continue to issue guidance for individuals on what they can do after being fully vaccinated.
√ Additional CDC guidance on activities for the vaccinated: As Americans approach July 4, based on the best available science and the pace of vaccinations, the CDC will provide public health guidance for people as they travel, participate in small gatherings, and go to work and houses of worship.
√ Benefits of vaccination: CDC guidance and other CDC messaging will make the benefits of vaccination clear to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated.
•Take new steps to reopen the nation’s schools. The administration said reopening schools safely is critical to getting closer to normal. Biden laid out new steps toward this effort.
•Ensure schools have the resources they need: Now that the American Rescue Plan has passed, the nearly $130 billion to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction will begin to be distributed this month by the Department of Education. These dollars will help schools pay for the critical supplies to implement CDC-recommended mitigation strategies, hire more staff – and avoid laying off current staff – to accommodate the need for smaller class sizes due to physical distancing, and support children’s academic, social and emotional needs after a challenging year.
•Expand screening testing in schools: The administration will immediately take steps to help schools implement regular screening testing to assist them in safely reopening classrooms, including through tests and test supplies as well as implementation assistance to make it easier for schools to adopt a testing program. This month, HHS will award $650 million in an initial investment in expanding K-8 school testing and testing in underserved congregate settings through new regional coordinating centers that will identify existing testing capacity, match it up to an area of need and support testing. This effort will begin to bring more testing to teachers, staff and students, and serve as a bridge to the comprehensive testing investment in the American Rescue Plan that is critical to get the pandemic under control.
•Provide guidance and support: The Department of Education (ED) will host a national Safe School Reopening Summit this month that will bring together students, teachers, families, community organizations and state, local and/or school leadership to provide assistance in implementing the CDC K-12 operational strategy for in-person instruction and supporting the academic, social and emotional well-being of students. ED also is launching the “Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse” called for in Biden’s executive order. The clearinghouse will highlight lessons learned and best practices that can help schools and districts identify opportunities to best utilize American Rescue Plan funds to meet their individual needs. Next month, ED will release volume 2 of its K-12 COVID-19 handbook for districts, schools and educators with strategies to address the impact of COVID-19 on students, educators and staff, especially for historically underserved students and communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
•Help educators get vaccinated: Throughout March, the administration will advance efforts to support educators, school staff and child care workers getting vaccinated. Last week, the president announced he is using the administration’s authority to direct states to make pre-K-12 school staff and child care workers eligible for vaccinations, and that the administration will prioritize educators in the federal pharmacy program. The president challenged all 50 states to get pre-K-12 school staff and child care workers their first shot by the end of this month. To help meet that goal, the administration is working with education leaders, advocates, child care providers, community leaders, states and others to help reach educators and to disseminate toolkits and other resources to help amplify the importance of getting vaccinated.
•Continue effort to combat variants and spread of COVID-19: The administration will continue to take steps to combat the spread of variants, including expanding testing and genomic sequencing.
•Expand testing to help stop the spread of COVID-19. While testing to date has been primarily focused on individuals with symptoms and potential exposures – and this testing remains critical – the administration will expand testing to ensure health officials are identifying asymptomatic infection early to stop the spread. With the nearly $50 billion in testing funding in the American Rescue Plan, the administration will invest in screening testing to help schools reopen safely, expand testing in congregate settings such as shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness, prisons and other settings where individuals live in close quarters. This funding also will help to close supply gaps and address critical raw material shortages that plagued the testing supply chain. And, with new investments in the manufacturing base, the U.S. can increase easier to use and more affordable point-of-care and at-home testing.
•Identify variants by expanding genomic sequencing. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s $1.75 billion investment, the administration will dramatically expand the ability to sequence samples to identify, track and mitigate emerging variants. This will build on the nearly $200 million it announced last month to grow the number of samples sequenced from 7,000 to approximately 25,000. Growing sample sizes will improve the ability to detect emerging variants and work to mitigate their spread.