President Joe Biden said Tuesday the U.S. would have sufficient supplies of coronavirus vaccines to vaccinate every adult in the nation by the end of May – two months earlier than previously expected.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden told the White House.
Less than a month earlier, the Biden administration had made a more modest prognosis: The US would have an adequate vaccine supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July.
Biden’s announcement came as the White House is working to ramp up production of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid vaccine, which was last approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In his speech, Biden confirmed that J&J and the pharmaceutical company Merck will work together to boost production of the newly approved vaccine.
“When we took office, the previous government hadn’t commissioned nearly enough adult vaccine in America. We corrected that,” Biden said.
“I am pleased to announce today that as a result of an intensified process I ordered and just described, this country will have sufficient vaccine supplies for every adult in America by the end – I’ll say it again – by May.”
“This is progress, important progress,” said Biden. “But it’s not enough.”
The president said the U.S. is still in dire need of vaccines that can deliver the shots, as well as places to get people vaccinated.
Biden, who often warns against having overly optimistic expectations about progress against the pandemic, declined to give a rosier estimate of when things could get back to “normal”.
“I was warned not to answer that because we didn’t really know,” said Biden. “But I hope we get back to normal around this time next year.”
Biden’s good news – including the fact that he attempted to administer 100 million Covid shots in its first 100 days – has been tempered by a number of unknowns related to the fight against the virus.
“This fight is far from over,” said Biden in his speech, noting that new versions of Covid are spreading in the United States. “It could get worse again.”
Despite fears of another deadly wave of infections, the governors of some states are rapidly easing Covid restrictions – which directly contradicts the instructions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Texas governor Greg Abbott and Mississippi governor Tate Reeves, both Republicans, announced Tuesday that they were lifting mask mandates and allowing companies to reopen at full capacity.
“Texas is 100% open. EVERYTHING,” Abbott tweeted.
A day earlier, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she was “very concerned that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”
“At this level of cases where variants spread, we will completely lose the hard-earned ground we gained,” she said.
Biden reiterated the need to remain vigilant and cautious on Tuesday afternoon – and again urged Congress to swiftly pass the $ 1.9 trillion Covid stimulus plan.
The Democrats hope to get the massive bailout bill through the Senate as early as next week when it goes to the Resolute Desk so that Biden can sign it.
Meanwhile, “Please keep washing your hands. Stay socially aloof. Wear masks – keep them on. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” Biden said.
“Now is not the time to let up,” he added. “Now is not the time to let go of our watch. People’s lives are at stake.”