WASHINGTON – The White House publicly announced Tuesday that President Biden did not expect to meet his goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, and instead only hit that milestone in people over the age of 26 would.
It would be the first time that Mr Biden failed to achieve a vaccination goal he set. If the adult vaccination rate continues at the current seven-day average, the country will just miss its target, as around 67 percent of adults will have at least one vaccination by July 4, according to an analysis by the New York Times.
White House officials have argued that, given all the progress the nation has made against Covid-19, missing a few percentage points is not significant. “We have built an unprecedented, unique, nationwide immunization program,” said Jeffrey D. Zients, the government’s pandemic response coordinator, during a briefing at the White House. “That is a remarkable achievement.”
However, health experts warn that the vaccination rate slowdown this winter could mean renewed coronavirus outbreaks if cold weather drives people indoors, with high daily mortality rates in areas where comparatively few people have protected themselves with gunshots.
“I pay tribute to the Biden administration for putting in place a mass vaccination program for adults that didn’t exist,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “But now we’ve hit a wall.”
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said at the White House briefing that “there is a danger, a real danger, that if there is persistent reluctance to vaccinate you might see local surges” or regional tips.
He also warned of the rising prevalence of the Delta variant, first identified in India, which is more contagious than previous versions of the virus and can cause more serious illness. The variant now makes up an estimated 20 percent of new infections, he said. A new analysis published on Monday of nearly a quarter of a million infections in the US suggests that the variant will soon be the dominant form of the virus here.
June 24, 2021, 4:02 p.m. ET
The three vaccines approved in the United States are effective against the Delta variant, and Dr. Fauci said its spread re-urged the campaign to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.
Data released by the government this week shows that young adults are the least vaccinated. “The country has more to do, especially with 18 to 26-year-olds,” said Zients. Many of them, he added, feel “like Covid-19 is not affecting them and they were less eager to get the injection”.
Just over a third of adults ages 18 to 39 said they had been vaccinated, according to a report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this group, those who were either 24 or younger, as well as non-Hispanic blacks and those with lower incomes, lower education, and no health insurance had the lowest reported vaccination rates and showed the least interest in getting a vaccination, the report said. They most frequently cited concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
Mr. Zients said it would take “a few extra weeks” beyond July 4th to reach enough young adults to meet the goal of 70 percent of adults being at least partially vaccinated. But dr. Fauci emphasized that 70 percent “is not the goal line, nor is it the final”.
A certain percentage of Americans are just adamant about the vaccine, said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the Chief Medical Officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “But I think there are still people out there who are pretty much on the fence out there, and this is where our chance lies,” he added.
When the target was announced on May 4, Mr Biden made a personal request to the unvaccinated, saying that being given an injection was a life and death decision. According to the latest figures from the CDC, 150 million Americans – 45 percent of the population – are fully vaccinated and 177 million have received at least one dose.
In the past few weeks, there has been a sharp drop in new infections, hospital admissions and deaths related to the virus across the country. As of Monday, the seven-day average of new virus cases in the US was 11,243 cases per day, a decrease of nearly 30 percent over the past two weeks, according to a Times database.
Lazaro Gamio contributed to the coverage.