WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. has secured deals for another 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines and will have enough to vaccinate 300 million people by the summer, President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon.
The administration promised to secure the doses last month — 100 million from Moderna and 100 million from Pfizer — but the official contract was just signed on Thursday afternoon, before the president toured the National Institutes of Health.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, and I don’t say that lightly, I want to thank you and your families for your work and your sacrifice,” Biden said to NIH staff. “For there is no doubt that your families sacrificed a great deal for the endless hours you put in to save the rest of us.”
The deal increases the available supply by 50%, bringing the total number of doses to 600 million by the end of July — enough for 300 million people, as each vaccine requires two doses. Additional vaccine supply is expected to come from Johnson & Johnson, which submitted its application to regulators for a single-dose vaccine last week.
Biden emphasized that the Trump administration did little to get ready for the mass challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans, leaving his administration to start from scratch.
“It was a big mess, it’s going to take time to fix,” Biden said. “We still have a long way to go.”
Along with the 200 million additional vaccines, Biden said there will be an expedited delivery of 100 million doses by the end of May, which were originally promised by the end of June.
Biden is on track to surpass his goal of administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, a period that ends on April 30.
In a press briefing on Wednesday, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients said the administration has overseen a 28% increase in vaccine allocation during its first three weeks in office. The seven-day average daily doses administered is up from 1.1 million shots per day to 1.5 million, Zients said.
The administration is working to target communities that have been hit the hardest, employ vaccinators all around the country and create mass vaccination sites, Biden said, before imploring Americans to wear a mask and get the vaccine, calling it a “patriotic responsibility” in the “middle of a war.”
“Do you realize more people have died in the last 12 months than died in all four years in World War II?” Biden said. “We remain in the teeth of this pandemic. January of 2021 was the deadliest month we’ve ever had. We lost over 100,000 of our fellow citizens. We’re on track to cross 500,000 dead Americans this next month.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68.3 doses have been delivered, 34.7 million people have received one dose, and 11.1 million people have received two doses.
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