After his administration fell short of its Independence Day vaccination goal, U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday will again appeal to uninoculated Americans to get the shots to protect themselves and others against the coronavirus, especially the latest worrying variant.
Biden is scheduled to make remarks at the White House on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program as concern increases about the delta variant of the virus spreading across the country.
The Biden administration aimed to have 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection said Friday that 67% have received one dose of a COVID vaccine; 47% have received two doses.
The president declared a partial victory during Independence Day festivities Sunday evening at the White House, where he and first lady Jill Biden personally greeted many of the 1,000 invited first responders, essential workers and military service members.
“We’re back traveling again. We’re back seeing one another again. Businesses are opening and hiring again,” Biden told the attendees during a 15-minute speech in which he declared near independence from the pandemic. “Today, all across this nation we can say with confidence: America is coming back together.”
The president cautioned, however, the battle against the virus – which has killed more than 600,000 Americans, is not yet over.
“Don’t get me wrong — COVID-19 has not been vanquished,” said Biden. “We all know powerful variants have emerged. But the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated.
Getting the shot, the president said, is the “most patriotic” thing that can be done.
There is a stark regional contrast in vaccination rates. In the Northeast, more than half of adults are fully vaccinated.
In contrast, Southern states are performing poorly. In Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, 35% or less of adults have received full doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is also a political divide.
Only 45% of Republicans have received their first dose, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Those who hesitate to get vaccinated, for whatever reason, need to reassess their thinking, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"We're dealing with a historic situation with this pandemic and we do have the tools to counter it,” said Fauci on Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ “So for goodness sake, put aside all of those differences and realize the common enemy is this virus and we do have the tool, a highly effective tool, against this virus."
Fauci said 99% of recent coronavirus deaths in the United States involved unvaccinated people.
Amid the spread of the delta variant of the virus, believed to be more infectious, the federal government is preparing to send surge response teams to Southern and Western states seeing outbreaks.
“The federal government stands ready with a whole-of-government effort to work with local officials to increase vaccinations, to provide increased testing and also therapeutics to ensure that people don't get sick who have contracted the disease,” said White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients on the CBS program "Face the Nation" on Sunday.