Coronavirus US: what has Biden said about vaccinating the adult population?
The vaccine rollout continues with a new shot from Johnson & Johnson as the President announces new targets for the US to begin to remove pandemic restrictions.
On Thursday evening President Joe Biden used the first prime time speech of his presidency to update the American people on the nation’s battle against the coronavirus.
The address, which came one year to the day since the United States’ first covid-19 lockdown was introduced, was both a reflection on the lives lost and a roadmap for the path ahead.
Central to Biden’s message was the importance of the ongoing vaccine rollout, which he hopes will bring about a return to some form of normality by the summer. During the speech he set some pretty ambitious targets, which included a date for states to remove all eligibility restrictions for the vaccine.
All Americans to be eligible for the vaccine by May
While the vaccine rollout is overseen by the federal government, the job of actually getting the shots into peoples’ arms is generally done by local authorities. States, tribes and territories therefore set their own eligibility restrictions for the vaccine, which have understandably prioritised the elderly and the vulnerable.
However as the speed of vaccination increases Biden want the shots to be made available for all and has instructed local authorities to open up eligibility to all adults by the start of May, just seven weeks from now.
In the speech he said: "Tonight, I'm announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults age 18 and older eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1.”
It should be noted that this does not mean that all adults will have received a vaccine by then, or even that they will have an appointment booked; it just means that the at-risk categories will have been vaccinated and the restrictions can be removed.
Vaccination effort could see restrictions lifted by 4 July
In the course of the speech Biden gave updates on some of his goals from before he took office and announced that the US is set to far exceed his initial target for vaccine distribution. He had aimed to allocate 100 million doses in the first 100 days of his presidency, but revealed they are on track to hit that marker within just 60 days.
A deal brokered between pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson and Merck will see the latter help produce a new one-shot vaccination developed by the former. The US has ordered another 100 million of these doses to bring the nation’s total vaccination order to 800 million.
This extensive vaccination programme is hoped to bring about positive change in the coming months and Biden has set out a tentative route back towards normality in time for the summer.
In the speech he announced that, if Americans stick to the guidelines and there are no unforeseen complications, he would be able to lift restrictions in time for small-scale Independence Day parties on 4 July.
"If we do this together, by 4 July, there is a good chance you, your family and friends can get together in your backyard or in your neighbourhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day," he said.
"After a long, hard year, that will make this Independence Day truly special - where we not only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”