President Joe Biden said the US expects to take delivery of enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.
With the bolstered supply, President Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritise vaccinating teachers, and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy programme.
He challenged states to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all educators by the end of March as part of his administration’s efforts to reopen more schools across the nation.
Across the country, over thirty states have taken steps to prioritize educators for vaccination. Today, President Biden is directing remaining states to do the same — with the goal of every educator receiving at least one shot by the end of March.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 2, 2021
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” said President Biden.
His twin announcements quickly raised expectations for when the nation could safely emerge from the pandemic with the promise of additional vaccines, but it highlighted the looming challenge facing the nation: successfully putting those doses into arms.
Even as he expressed optimism, President Biden quickly tempered the outlook for a return to life as it was before the virus hit.
“I’ve been cautioned not to give an answer to that because we don’t know for sure,” President Biden said, before saying his hope was sometime before “this time next year”.
President Biden’s speech was set against the backdrop of states across the country moving to relax virus-related restrictions.
It's time to finally get COVID-19 under control and give families the bridge they need to get through this economic crisis. Here’s how the American Rescue Plan will get it done: pic.twitter.com/Em6MOulirJ— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 2, 2021
This comes despite the objections of the White House and the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who have raised alarm about new variants of the virus and pleaded against any relaxation of virus protocols until more Americans are vaccinated.
In Texas, Gov Greg Abbot moved to lift his state’s mask-wearing mandate and a host of other limitations. Michigan’s Gov Gretchen Whitmer eased capacity limits on restaurants and both public and residential gatherings.
Dr Fauci has previously said the nation must achieve a vaccination rate of about 80% to reach “herd immunity”.
Only about 8% of the population has been fully vaccinated according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, though the pace of vaccination has been increasing, with the US setting a new daily record for injections on both Thursday and Friday of last week.
In hopes of increasing vaccinations even further. the Biden administration told governors to make preparations to administer even more doses in the coming weeks.
More shots are also heading towards the federally backed programme to administer doses in retail pharmacies, which federal officials believe can double or triple their pace of vaccination.
More than 800,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also be distributed this week to pharmacies, on top of the 2.4 million they are now getting of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply.
Those pharmacies will be key in getting the vaccines into the arms of teachers — particularly in the roughly 20 states where they have not been prioritised for shots — which will help reopen schools to better educate students who have been at risk of falling behind during the pandemic and reduce the burden on parents who have had to choose between childcare and a job.