U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a new goal to have 70 percent of U.S. adults vaccinated with at least one COVID-19 shot by the July 4 holiday and to do so the administration will shift some vaccine doses from states with weaker demand to areas with greater demand.
Biden's target comes as the pace for vaccinations has fallen markedly in part because people are hesitant about the vaccines. It would mean administering 100 million shots over the next 60 days, senior administration officials said Tuesday. The U.S. administered about 220 million shots in Biden's first 100 days.
"Now that we have the vaccine supply, we're focused on convincing even more Americans to show up and get the vaccine that is available to them," Biden told reporters in an afternoon address from the White House. "If we succeed in this effort ... then Americans will have taken a serious step towards a return to normal."
"There are a lot of younger people, especially those in their 20s and 30s who believe they don't need it. Well, I want to be absolutely clear: You do need to get vaccinated," Biden said.
The president had previously announced the Fourth of July, Independence Day, as a target date for when Americans can gather in small groups to signal a return to greater normalcy in the pandemic.
An administration official told reporters that 105 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and more than 56 percent of U.S. adults, or 147 million people, have received at least one shot.
Despite a flood of vaccine available, providers are administering about 2.29 million doses per day on average, about a 32 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To meet Biden's new goal, the administration will shift some COVID-19 vaccine doses from states with weaker demand to areas with greater demand. Individual states have made similar shifts internally to account for changing demand. Those states would have the shots available whenever demand for vaccines increases.
Governors were informed of the change by the White House on Tuesday morning. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that the move offered governors more flexibility.
"Even just a few weeks ago, we were in a different phase of our vaccination effort, when supply was more constrained and states, for the most part, were ordering at or near their full allocation," she said.
Biden also called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and said that he is directing tens of thousands of pharmacies to offer walk-in appointments for coronavirus vaccine shots, creating more pop-up and mobile clinics and shipping more doses to rural clinics to deliver doses to harder-to-reach communities.
The administration is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to boost interest in vaccines through education campaigns and access to shots through community organizations that can help bring people to clinics.
Biden's remarks were made as the administration has shifted away from setting a target for the U.S. to reach "herd immunity'' — the point at which the virus dies out for lack of hosts to transmit it — because it is unlikely to be reached and instead is focusing on delivering as many shots as possible. Officials said that Biden's vaccination target would result in a significant reduction in COVID-19 cases headed into the summer.
The White House is also developing plans to speed vaccinations for adolescents aged 12-15 as the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents in that age group next week.
Biden, the White House said, would "challenge" states to administer at least one dose to that age group by July 4 and work to deliver doses to pediatricians' offices and other locations, with the aim of getting as many of them fully vaccinated by the start of the next school year.
While younger people are at dramatically lower risk of serious complications from COVID-19, they have made up a larger share of new virus cases, as a majority of U.S. adults have been at least partially vaccinated and as higher-risk activities like indoor dining and contact sports have resumed in most of the country.
Agencies contributed to this story.