President Biden at his news conference on Thursday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
CAPTAIN AMERICA …….. IS BACK
WASHINGTON — President Biden announced on Thursday that he would double his initial goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. Having already reached that goal last week, he announced a new one, vowing to vaccinate 200 million by April 30, when he will reach the 100-day benchmark historically used to assess a president’s opening agenda.
“I know it’s ambitious,” Biden said at the beginning of his first press conference since taking office. “Twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close — not even close — to what we’re doing. And I believe we can do it.”
Biden has 36 days left to achieve that goal. About 2.5 million vaccinations are being administered daily, according to figures cited on Thursday by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And with vaccine production increasing, the daily rate could climb significantly (it has already topped 3 million, though not consistently).
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Dr. Jonathan Reiner of George Washington University estimated that Biden would meet the 200 million mark “with about a week so spare.” Even so, Reiner estimated that it would take another five months to reach herd immunity, the point at which a large enough share of the population is inoculated to halt community spread.
For the U.S. to reach herd immunity, about 80 percent of the country’s population has to be vaccinated (or have natural antibodies after being sickened with the coronavirus). About 13 percent of Americans have been vaccinated, according to the White House, and more than 20 percent of Americans are believed to have been infected with the virus. (There is likely some overlap between those two populations.)
Biden has benefited from accelerated vaccine production. The vaccines were developed in the last months of the Trump presidency, through a private-public partnership called Operation Warp Speed. Biden has used federal powers to speed that production along.
The Trump administration was vaccinating 900,000 people daily by mid-January, but had not created the kind of national infrastructure that public health experts said was needed to inoculate millions of people.