Biden: Adults vaccine-eligible by April 19

BY Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

President Biden on Tuesday bumped up the timeline by two weeks to April 19 for all adults to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The White House celebrated 150 million doses of vaccine administered since Jan. 20 in a “life-or-death race” to protect Americans.

The president’s latest declaration, which he made during a visit to a vaccine site in Alexandria, Va., accompanies an ambitious national mass vaccination program. The latest totals put Biden on course to reach his goal of 200 million doses administered in his first 100 days.

At least a dozen states opened eligibility to anyone 16 and older on Monday alone, while New Jersey and Oregon announced this week that all residents 16 and older will become eligible on April 19.

The Associated Press: Biden wants all adults to be eligible to make a vaccine appointment beginning on April 19. “Get the vaccination when you can,” he urged.

“We’re making incredible progress,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “There’s a lot of good news. But there’s also some bad news. New variants of the virus are spreading, and they’re moving quickly. Cases are going back up. Hospitalizations are no longer declining.”

“The virus is spreading because we have too many people who, seeing the end in sight, think we’re at the finish line already,” the president added (The Hill).

Biden had previously said 90 percent of adults would be eligible by April 19, with all becoming able to set up a vaccine appointment by May 1.

The latest developments emerge as the rate of vaccinations picks up across the country, The Hill’s Peter Sullivan writes. According to Bloomberg News’s latest tracker, the U.S. is averaging more than 3 million jabs per day, while more than 75 percent of people 65 or older have received at least one shot. Forty percent of all adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“We just need a handful more weeks,” said Jason Schwartz, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, added that  a “vaccine inflection point” is likely coming in “two, three weeks,” giving the United States another boost in the process.

Complicating the picture is the continuing plateau of cases as the U.S. averages 64,000 new infections per day, meaning that Americans are by no means out of the woods. However, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, downplayed the chances of an exploding fourth wave and argued that the rate of vaccinations will likely allow this country to avoid additional restrictions as infections and hospitalizations surge in some states.

“As long as we keep vaccinating people efficiently and effectively, I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” Fauci told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to still see an increase in cases” (The Hill).

Reuters: A third of COVID-19 survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders: study.

The Associated Press: Nearly half of new U.S. virus infections are in just five states.

The Hill: Fears of contracting COVID-19 are at the lowest point in the past year: Gallup.

While the administration keeps its focus on the pandemic, the business community is confronting the politically fraught issue of “vaccine passports” and whether to require customers to prove they are vaccinated to gain entry to entertainment venues or access services.

As The Hill’s Alex Gangitano writes, the Biden administration has maintained in recent days that it will not be mandating individuals receive them or various industries use them. However, it has left the door open for businesses to create their own policies, even though they would almost certainly be opposed in certain corners of the country.

The latest pushback came from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who issued an executive order prohibiting their use in the Lone Star State. He argued that a system being used to track those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 infringes on citizens’ rights.

“Every day, Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But, as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in announcing the order. “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives” (The Hill).

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