Biden Expands Vaccine Access to Cover 90% of Adults as Cases Mount

Americans are receiving vaccines against Covid-19 at record speeds, but top health officials say going even faster could head off the next wave of infections.

President Joe Biden speaks with members of the press near a waiting motorcade vehicle after stepping off Air Force One at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Del., on Friday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Hours after one of his top health officials warned of “impending doom” as hospitals confront a new surge of Covid-19 cases, President Joe Biden announced additional expansions for vaccine eligibility and accessibility Monday afternoon.

“As much as we are doing, America, it’s time to do even more,” Biden said. “Now’s not the time to let down, now’s not the time to celebrate.” 

The president announced that 90% of adults will be eligible for the vaccine by April 19, and 90% will have a vaccination site within 5 miles of their home by the same date. He also said that his administration is doubling the number of pharmacies that administer vaccines, creating 12 additional mass government vaccination sites and throwing nearly $100 million in funding at helping to vaccinate seniors and people with disabilities. 

“For the vast, vast majority of adults, you won’t have to wait until May 1. You’ll be eligible for your shot on April 19,” Biden said. 

America averaged 2.7 million vaccinations a day last week, and began this one with 3.28 million vaccinations Sunday. As of Monday, 36% of adults have received their first dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, while 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose. There are more doses available for seniors this coming week than any other week. 

“This is good news. We’re headed in the right direction,” said Andy Slavitt, senior advisor on the White House Covid response team, said at a White House news conference Monday morning. “But we can’t slow down. Millions remain unvaccinated and at risk.”

The U.S. just recorded a weekly average of 60,000 new Covid-19 cases per day, up 10% compared with the week prior, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The weekly average of hospitalizations clocked in at 4,800 per day, a 4% increase. Deaths typically lag behind cases and hospitalizations but are also beginning to rise. 

“Our work is far from over. The war against Covid-19 is far from won,” Biden said. “This is deadly serious.”

In areas of New England and other parts of the country where virus restrictions have eased up, new infections are ticking up in kind. Biden pleaded Monday for state and local leaders, as well as businesses, to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate.

“Please, this is not politics,” Biden said, describing how new variants of the virus are spreading and many people are letting up on precautions.

The president spoke after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky gave an emotional warning at the White House news conference Monday morning.

“I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script. And I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared. 

Walensky pleaded with Americans to hold on just a little longer, as typically cases have a larger surge after a smaller surge. 

“I so badly want to be done.  I know you all so badly want to be done,” Walensky said. “We are just almost there but not quite yet. And so I’m asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends.”

Pairing that warning with reason for hope, Walensky on Monday also highlighted CDC data showing how the vaccines performed nearly as well in the real world setting as promised by their trial results.

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