During his first formal news conference as U.S. president, Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new nationwide coronavirus vaccination goal: 200 million shots in arms during the first 100 days of his administration.
“I know it’s ambitious – twice our original goal – but no other country has even come close,” said Biden at the start of the event in the White House East Room.
In late January, just days after his inauguration, Biden said he wanted to ship out 150 million shots in his first 100 days, but his administration scaled back that projection.
As of Wednesday, 130 million injections had been administered, White House officials said, with 85 million people having received one shot and 45 million people being fully vaccinated.
Three entities, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, have promised enough vaccine doses to inoculate all 260 million adults in the United States by the end of next month, another goal previously announced by Biden.
In June, Pfizer and Moderna are set to deliver another 100 million doses.
Biden, on the 65th day of his presidency, also said the government was closing in on another pledge he had made – of having most kindergarten-through- eighth-grade classrooms reopened during the first 100 days of his administration.
‘We’re really close’
The president cited an Education Department survey stating nearly half of such schools with in-person learning were open full time.
“Not yet a majority, but we’re really close,” said Biden. “And I believe in the 35 days left to go we’ll meet that goal as well.”
During Biden’s hourlong news conference, there were no queries directly related to the coronavirus pandemic from any of the 10 reporters who were selected to ask questions.
Over the past year, COVID-19 has killed more than 542,000 people and infected at least 30 million in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
White House officials earlier Thursday announced plans to spend $10 billion of money already appropriated by Congress to expand access to coronavirus vaccines and overcome hesitancy about the vaccine in high-risk communities.
So far, only the states of Alaska, Mississippi, Utah and West Virginia have made all their adults eligible for vaccination. Florida is to join them on April 5.
It is expected to be some time before many children, who are at lower risk of serious illness from the coronavirus, will be inoculated in the United States.
Pfizer on Wednesday began testing its vaccine on children under age 12. Astra Zeneca and Moderna have been testing their vaccines on those between six months and 12 years, while Johnson & Johnson says it expects to extend its trial to younger age groups after assessing the performance of its one-shot vaccine in older children.