WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden performed a cautious victory lap on Friday in his quest to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, announcing that 300 million vaccines have been administered in the 150 days since taking office .
Biden credited scientists, businesses, the American people and his whole-of-government effort. The president noted that the widespread vaccination campaign had paved the way for most Americans to have a relatively normal summer as businesses reopen and employers hire.
“We are heading for a very different summer than last year” said the president. “A radiant summer. In prayer, a summer of joy.
But as Biden marks one important milestone, he risks missing out on another: his goal of having at least partially 70% of American adults immunized by July 4, in just over two weeks.
Overall, about 168 million U.S. adults, or 65.1% of the U.S. population 18 and older, received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The pace of new vaccinations in the United States has dropped significantly from a high of nearly 2 million per day about two months ago, compromising Biden’s ability to hit the 70% mark.
The White House said its whole-of-government approach to the immunization effort had rolled back the virus, which in turn brought COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths to their lowest levels on top of more a year. But Biden noted in his remarks that some communities in states with lower vaccination rates are seeing increased cases and hospitalizations.
The administration is in the midst of a month-long blitz to tackle vaccine hesitancy and the lack of urgency some people feel to get vaccinated, especially in the South and Midwest.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday she expects the delta variant of the coronavirus to become the dominant strain in the United States. This strain became dominant in Britain after its first detection in India.
During an appearance on ABC’s “Hello America,” she told Americans who get vaccinated that “You will be protected against this delta variant”.
As part of the administration’s vaccination campaign, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta on Friday to visit a contextual COVID-19 vaccination site at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr . was a pastor until his assassination in 1968. The current senior pastor is US Senator Raphael Warnock.
Harris also spoke at a COVID-19 vaccination mobilization event at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black school. She told the students that they “Have the power to end this pandemic” educating people about the myriad of resources, such as free car rides and childcare, that are available to help them get immunized.
In Fulton County, Georgia, where Atlanta is located, 49% of residents have received at least one injection. Statewide, it’s 42%, Harris said.
“To be vaccinated is to strengthen the power of the community”, she said. “Getting vaccinated is empowering our country.”
Biden administration insists that even if the 70% vaccination target is not met, it will have little effect on the overall recovery of the United States, which is already ahead of what Biden had announced months ago.
Biden wants to celebrate Independence Day as “the summer of freedom” virus.
Earlier this week, the White House announced plans to welcome first responders, essential workers, and military personnel and their families to the South Lawn for a barbecue and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall.
More than 1,000 guests are expected for what will be one of the biggest events of Biden’s presidency.
Associated Press editors Josh Boak in Baltimore and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.