WASHINGTON - The United States will miss President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the July 4 Independence Day holiday, but the White House says it expects to hit that mark “in a few extra weeks.”
In a new assessment Tuesday of the country’s vaccination effort, COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the federal government expects that 70% of those 27 and older will have gotten at least one vaccination shot by the July 4 holiday, which he described as “a remarkable achievement.”
“The virus is in retreat,” Zients said, with the country regaining a sense of normalcy. “We are entering a summer of joy, a summer of freedom.”
Now, he said, a renewed effort is being made to inoculate more younger adults in the 18-to-26 age group. Many of the younger adults, for various reasons, have shown little interest in getting vaccinated, especially since the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths has fallen sharply in the country in recent weeks and many businesses have reopened without facemask and social distancing restrictions that had been in place for more than a year.
“Our effort does not end on July 4,” Zients said. “It’s more important than ever that they get the shot,” along with others who have yet to be inoculated. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “We are seeing a dramatic decline in deaths and hospitalizations.”
She said that with the proven success of available vaccines, including against variants of the original coronavirus, “At this point, every death is entirely preventable.”
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s chief medical adviser, warned there is a “real danger” for the U.S. if there is “a persistent reluctance” to get vaccinated.
Overall, since the pandemic first spread widely in the U.S. in March 2020, the nation has recorded more than 602,000 deaths and 33.5 million infections, more than in any other country, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
Biden, who set the 70% vaccination goal for the July 4 holiday, has not publicly acknowledged it is unlikely to be met.
Like on many divisive political issues in the U.S., a sharp split has developed on getting vaccinated, with numerous Democratic states that voted for Biden in last November’s election showing higher vaccination rates than Republican states that voted for his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
Some of the lowest vaccination rates have been recorded in southern states that Trump won handily and where skepticism is widespread about the need to be vaccinated. Four states – Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama in the South, and Wyoming in the West – all have yet to reach a 50% vaccination level. A total of 16 states and the national capital city of Washington have topped 70% with at least one shot administered.
Trump and former first lady Melania Trump, who both contracted the virus, were privately vaccinated before he left office in January, but Trump often downplayed the spread of the infection in the U.S. Both Biden and first lady Jill Biden were vaccinated on live television before he took office. They have made numerous appeals to Americans to get the shot.
Zients said 70% of Americans 30 and older already have received at least one shot. But the pace of inoculations has fallen markedly in recent weeks, even though plenty of shots are available at 81,000 vaccination sites across the country.
The White House is planning a large July 4 celebration on the South Lawn with about 1,000 guests expected to attend a picnic and watch a fireworks display celebrating the country’s 1776 independence from Britain.
Even as Biden likely misses the 70% vaccination rate for adults, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week, "We've made tremendous progress in our vaccination efforts to date, and the ultimate goal has been to get America back to normal … and we're looking forward to doing that even here at the White House.”