President Biden set an ambitious new goal for vaccinating adults in the U.S. against COVID-19: He wants at least 70% to get at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by the Fourth of July, he announced this week. But the goal is just one part of a new plan to reach those who haven’t been vaccinated yet.
“I promised that we’d administer 100 million shots in my first 100 days. After we met that goal, we doubled it to a—a historic 200 million shots. By the time we reached 100 days last week, we had shattered that mark with over 220 million shots in arms,” Biden said in an announcement this week. Now, the White House is turning its attention to three groups of people who may still need to get vaccinated.
First up is kids age 12 to 15, who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19, though the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is expected to receive emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that age group as early as this week. As soon as the FDA grants that authorization, the government is ready to move immediately to make the vaccines available at 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country, Biden said.
The second group of people is those who would like to be vaccinated but have found it too confusing, inconvenient, or difficult to actually get a shot. “So for those having trouble finding a location or making an appointment, we’re going to make it easier than ever,” Biden said, announcing the formal launch of vaccines.gov, which will serve as the national hub to find a vaccine near you. He also announced new efforts to encourage state- and federally run vaccination sites to allow walk-in appointments and to get vaccines to people in rural areas, including opening up smaller vaccination sites closer to people who may not want to drive to larger ones.
Finally, the president said he wanted to reach those who aren’t sure yet if they want to get vaccinated. “There are a lot of younger people, especially those in their 20s and 30s, who believe they don’t need it,” he said. “Well, I want to be absolutely clear: You do need to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it also reduces the risk that you give the virus to somebody else. It could save your life or the lives of people you love.”
Biden encouraged those who aren’t sure yet to get information about the vaccines from trusted sources, like their doctor, pharmacist, faith leaders, or people they know who’ve gotten a shot.
He also set up the Fourth of July as an enticing reward for those who do get vaccinated over the next few months. “Our goal by July Fourth is to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated,” he said. “If we succeed in this effort, as we did with the last, then Americans will have taken a serious step towards a return to normal: That’s July Fourth.”
That 70% figure is not enough to achieve herd immunity, which would mean that enough people in the country are fully vaccinated that even those who are not vaccinated would receive some protection because the virus isn’t able to spread widely. But 70% is a huge chunk of the country—and getting that many people on their way to vaccination would represent a major step toward containing the pandemic. Right now, about 57% of adults in the U.S. have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 41% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so there is still a ways to go.
At this point, all U.S. adults are eligible to receive one of the three FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines. The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna both require two doses given a few weeks apart, while the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson only requires one dose. You’re considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after your last dose of whichever vaccine you received.
And, once you’re fully vaccinated, you can start to ease some COVID-19 protocols, the CDC says. In some circumstances, fully vaccinated people can skip COVID-19 testing or go without masks when gathering with a few other people, for instance. So, for some people, having a more normal Fourth of July—along with regaining a few other pre-pandemic habits—could be enticement enough to get vaccinated.