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Biden says US will have enough vaccines for every adult by end of May

Griffin Connolly
·4-min read
President Joe Biden holds a face mask after speaking about efforts to combat COVID-19, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris is at left (AP)
President Joe Biden holds a face mask after speaking about efforts to combat COVID-19, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris is at left (AP)

The US will have enough Covid vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May, Joe Biden announced at a press briefing on Tuesday.

The rollout of that vaccine supply could, however, take longer since the distribution involves immense resources and convoluted logistics to actually get shots into people’s arms.

“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” Mr Biden told reporters, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The president criticised his predecessor, Donald Trump, for failing to ink contracts with Covid vaccine suppliers for enough doses.

“About three weeks ago, we were able to say that we’d have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July,” Mr Biden said, suggesting that actions taken under his administration had sped up the timeline.

“We rectified that,” the president said of a potential vaccine supply shortage.

Helping to speed up the mass inoculation of the US population is the introduction of a third approved vaccine, from the drugmaker and medical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine joins the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines currently in circulation in the US. All three vaccines have been touted as “highly efficacious” at preventing both the spread of the virus and people’s level of illness if they do happen contract it.

“The J&J data that just came out — when you have advanced critical disease, there were no hospitalisations and no deaths. That’s good news,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, said in an interview with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on Sunday.

Watch: Biden rips red states ending coronavirus restrictions

In other words, all three vaccines have proven 100 per cent effective at preventing deaths. The risk of hospitalisation also plummets to virtually zero for people who receive any of the three vaccines.

Mr Biden also announced on Tuesday that Johnson & Johnson and its healthcare industry competitor Merck will work together on producing the J&J vaccine to accelerate its distribution.

“Among the things I learned when I came into office was that Johnson & Johnson was behind on manufacturing and production. While we had the potential for another highly effective vaccine to accompany the two existing vaccines, it simply wasn't coming fast enough,” the president said.

“My team has been hard at work to accelerate that effort. As I've always said, this is a wartime effort, and every action has been on the table, including putting together breakthrough approaches,” he said.

The administration invoked the World War II-era Defense Production Act to “equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the J&J vaccine,” Mr Biden said.

Johnson & Johnson is taking operational steps to speed up production of the vaccine in its own facilities as well.

As he walked away from the podium on Tuesday, Mr Biden stopped to answer a shouted question from a reporter about when Americans could expect their lives to return to the pre-Covid normal.

“I’ve been cautioned not to give an answer on that because we don’t know for sure,” the president said. “But my hope is by this time next year we’re going to be back to normal — and before that, is my hope.”

Mr Biden repeatedly cautioned on Tuesday that while his announcements should be heralded as welcome news, the US still has a “long way to go” confronting the coronavirus pandemic, which has now persisted for over a year.

“I have to be honest with you — this fight is far from over. I told you I'd be straight up with you from the beginning,” he said. “As I’ve said many times, things may get worse again as new variants spread and as we face setbacks, like recent winter storms in the midwest and south.”

But just an hour before Mr Biden’s announcements and words of caution, the governor of the second most populous state in the US announced he would be lifting the statewide mask mandate and allowing businesses to return to full capacity, showing how it is impossible for the federal government to unilaterally guide the nation’s pandemic response.

“Effective next Wednesday, all businesses of any type, are allowed to open 100 per cent,” Texas governor Greg Abbott said at a press event on Tuesday.

Mississippi governor Tate Reeves has since announced his administration would be following suit.

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?

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