Biden Urges Americans to Stay Vigilant as Vaccines Hit 50 Million Mark

Although Covid-19 infections, deaths and hospitalizations are declining, the president said Americans should continue following CDC guidelines.

President Joe Biden looks on as firefighter and EMT Gerald Burn receives a vaccination during an event to commemorate the 50 millionth Covid-19 shot on Thursday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Even though half of adults over 65 have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, President Joe Biden said Thursday that Americans still need to remain vigilant as infection rates continue to decline in the country.

“Cases and hospitalizations could go back up with new variants as they emerge,” Biden said at a White House event commemorating 50 million vaccine shots. “So, I want to make something really very clear: this is not a time to relax. We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced and for God’s sake… wear a mask.”

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both watched a nurse administer shots to four people, including Gerald Burn and Corey Hamilton, Washington firefighters clad in their uniforms; Linda Bussey, a Safeway grocery store manager in Bethesda, Maryland; and Victoria Leger Wood Rivera, a school counselor. All quickly received their first round of the Pfizer vaccine.

The president said they set an example the nation should follow. Biden said one of his first goals was to vaccinate 100 million Americans and now, just 37 days into his presidency, the administration is halfway to completing that goal.

Before he took office there were only about 6 million shots administered a week. That number has now doubled to 12 million, he said.

“When we discovered that vaccine manufactures weren’t being prioritized when it came to securing supplies they needed to make the vaccine, we fixed the problem,” Biden said. “We used the Defense Production Act to speed up the supply chain for key equipment which has already helped increase vaccine production.”

The administration is also closely watching trials for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 single-dose vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday is effective at preventing moderate to severe illness. If approved by the FDA, the White House has a plan to roll it out to vaccination centers “as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can make it,” Biden said.

“We’ll use every conceivable way to expand manufacturing of the vaccine and we’ll make even more rapid progress on overall vaccines in March,” he said.

The president and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Texas on Friday to tour one of the nation’s first federal vaccination clinics. The administration also plans on rolling out a massive campaign to help educate Americans about vaccines in the coming weeks.

“The question I’m asked most often is ‘when will things get back to normal?’” Biden said. “My answer is always honest and straightforward: ‘I can’t give you a date, I can only promise that we’ll work as hard as we can to make that day come as soon as possible.’”

He added, “Everything is not fixed, we have a long way to go, and that day when everything is back to normal depends on all of us.”

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