Biden team concedes falling short on July 4 vaccine target

Josh Wingrove

President Joe Biden’s advisers acknowledged that they’ll fall short of the White House goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults a first Covid-19 shot by the July 4 holiday.

Biden’s Covid-19 Coordinator Jeffrey Zients conceded during a briefing Tuesday that the administration won’t hit the target, but cited a series of other milestones. About 70% of adults 30 and older have received their first dose, and the same share of those 27 and up will have done so by July 4, Zients said.

“This is amazing progress and has our country returning to normal much sooner than anyone could have predicted. Where the country has more work to do is particularly with 18- to 26-year-olds,” Zients said in the briefing. “Our work does not stop on July 4th or at 70%.”

President Joe Biden.

It will take a few more weeks until after Biden’s deadline for 70% of all U.S. adults to get at least one shot, Zients said. Reaching the “aspirational goal” of having 160 million people fully vaccinated will come no later than mid-July, he said. There are 150 million fully vaccinated now.

The pace of shots in the U.S. has fallen off by about two-thirds since April, with about 1.1 million now administered daily, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. At that rate, it will take another five months for 75% of the population to be vaccinated.

Zients cast the overall progress in a positive light, saying that Biden will host 1,000 people at the White House for the July 4 Independence Day celebration, when the administration hopes to declare independence from the virus.

“The virus is in retreat in communities across the country. We are entering a summer of joy, a summer of freedom,” Zients said. “This is cause for celebration.”

In the meantime, the delta coronavirus variant that surfaced in India continues to rise in the U.S., prompting a warning Tuesday from Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist and a Biden adviser.

If 20% to 30% of the country doesn’t get vaccinated, “there will be local types of regional spikes and outbreaks,” Fauci said. “We are not done until we completely crush this outbreak.”