Biden vows to procure vaccines for 300 million Americans by summer, but says masks ‘best defense’ against Covid-19 for now
US President Joe Biden said his administration will soon buy another 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, set for delivery this summer, but added that masks, not inoculations, are the “best defense” in the coming months.
The president said on Tuesday that he directed his Covid-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, to begin working with Pfizer and Moderna for the purchases, hoping to boost the country’s total vaccine supply from 400 million to 600 million shots by summertime.
“We believe we’ll soon be able to confirm the purchase of an additional 100 million doses for each of the two FDA authorized vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna,” Biden told reporters. “We expect these additional 200 million doses to be delivered this summer. And some of it will begin to come in early summer, but by the mid-summer, this vaccine will be there.”
With both immunizations requiring two doses per person, the 600 million figure would likely cover most of the country’s population of some 330 million, with the president predicting those shots could be distributed “by the end of the summer [or] the beginning of the fall.”
Biden said his administration would increase the number of shots distributed to local governments from 8.6 million per week to 10 million, arguing that would “allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated.” He also noted that he would inform state governments of how many shots they are to receive three weeks in advance, to “give greater certainty around supply.”
However, the president lamented that the vaccination drive still has a “long way to go,” blaming the former Donald Trump administration for handing over a vaccine program “in worse shape than we anticipated or expected” while saying it would take “months” before the majority of Americans are immunized. Pointing to the lagging efforts, Biden claimed “masks, not vaccines, are the best defense against Covid-19” for the next few months.
He nonetheless said that to “expedite” the vaccine orders and “address the supply shortages we inherited from the previous administration,” he would be ready to “exercise all the authorities I have under the Defense Production Act,” a law that allows the federal government to force private firms to prioritize contracts related to “national defense.”
While Biden promised on the campaign trail to “shut down” Covid-19 in the early days of his presidency and repeatedly blasted his predecessor for a botched pandemic response, he appears to have tempered expectations in recent days, saying last week that, for the next few months, he would be powerless to “change the trajectory of the pandemic.” The president has declared a “wartime effort” against the virus regardless, instituting a limited mask mandate while vowing to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in the first 100 days of his administration.
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