(CNN) — President Joe Biden on Friday marked the United States administering 300 million COVID-19 shots in 150 days, urging unvaccinated Americans to roll up their sleeves to protect themselves against emerging variants of the virus.
In a speech at the White House on Friday, Biden called 300 million shots in 150 days “a truly American accomplishment.”
“Just remember what the situation was like 150 days ago,” Biden said. “We didn’t have enough vaccine supply for all Americans. We didn’t have the vaccine infrastructure or the people to administer the vaccines or the places where the people could get vaccinated. But we turned it around together by working quickly, aggressively and equitably.”
While touting his administration’s national vaccination effort, which has brought COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths down significantly in recent months, the President also emphasized the need to get other Americans vaccinated.
“The truth is that deaths and hospitalizations are drastically down in places where people are getting vaccinated,” Biden said. “But unfortunately, cases and hospitalizations are not going down in many places, in the lower vaccination rate states. They’re actually going up in some places.”
Biden specifically warned about the prevalence of a new coronavirus variant and its potential effects on unvaccinated individuals.
Federal officials are pointing to the emerging B.1.617.2, or Delta, variant, which was first identified in India, as yet another reason to get vaccinated. Andy Slavitt, a former White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, told CNN on Wednesday that the Delta variant is like “COVID on steroids.”
Biden said on Friday that “the new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they (were) a month ago. This is a serious concern, especially because of what experts are calling the Delta variant. It’s a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier, and particularly dangerous for young people.”
“The best way to protect yourself from these variants are to get fully vaccinated,” he added.
Asked whether the Delta variant could send the US back into lockdown, the President said no, but added that it could lead to more deaths among unvaccinated individuals.
Biden has set a goal of having 70% of US adults get at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and having 160 million US adults fully vaccinated by July Fourth, but it is unclear whether the nation will hit that mark.
Currently 65% of US adults have had at least one COVID-19 shot, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 147.8 million Americans are fully vaccinated. Only 14 states have reached Biden’s goal, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
Vice President Kamala Harris stressed that there is still much work to be done in order to reach the administration’s 70% goal, saying earlier Friday in Atlanta “that even though we have made a lot of progress, there are still a whole lot of folks out there who are not vaccinated.”
Restrictions that were put in place to stop the spread of the virus are being rolled back every day across the nation and more and more Americans are returning to their pre-pandemic lifestyles. But federal health officials warn that unvaccinated people can continue to spread the virus and more transmissible new variants could accelerate the spread. The Biden administration is racing to get more of the eligible population vaccinated to try to prevent the rise and spread of even more concerning new variants.
The White House is planning to host a celebration for thousands of essential workers and military families on July Fourth on the South Lawn to mark America’s “independence from the virus,” CNN has reported, according to a White House official. The celebration will be the largest in-person White House event since the President took office, and the National Mall will also be open for the traditional July Fourth fireworks.
The event will follow a grim milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic: The US surpassed 600,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The Biden administration on Thursday announced it would invest more than $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan to accelerate the discovery, development and manufacturing of COVID-19 antiviral medicines — including pills someone could easily take at home early in an illness.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that though vaccines remain the administration’s centerpiece in the fight against Covid-19, antivirals would add a layer of defense, particularly against emerging variants.
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