President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his administration's latest goals in the fight against the coronavirus: getting 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and having 160 million adults fully vaccinated by July 4.
The new vaccination targets came two months out from Independence Day, a date the White House hopes will mark a turning point in the pandemic.
"If we succeed in this effort," Biden said at the White House, "then Americans will have taken a serious step toward a return to normal."
In a background call with reporters earlier Tuesday, senior administration officials also said the White House will change the way it allocates vaccines to states. Covid vaccines that go unused or unwanted by some states will be redistributed to others, officials said.
In order to administer tens of millions more inoculations in the next 61 days, the president will take additional steps to encourage more people to get vaccinated and make it easier for them to do so, officials said.
Biden will direct thousands of local pharmacies to provide walk-in vaccinations to people without appointments, an official said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will also support pop-up and mobile clinics, which are aimed at individuals who may otherwise have trouble reaching vaccination sites.
The White House is also preparing to "be able to mobilize immediately" if the Food and Drug Administration approves Pfizer's Covid vaccine for people ages 12-15 for emergency use, an official said.
The administration officials also said more funding from the $1.9 trillion Covid relief law will be allocated toward rural health clinics and hospitals.
The administration's new efforts appear to be aimed in part at tackling the issue of vaccine hesitancy. A Monmouth University poll published in mid-April, for instance, found that about 1 in 5 Americans say they won't get a shot.
The new goal comes as the pace of daily shots slows, down to an average of 2.3 million reported vaccinations per day as of Monday from a high of 3.4 million on April 13.
As of Monday, more than 145 million Americans age 18 and older, or 56.3% of the total adult population, have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 104.7 million Americans age 18 and older, or 40.6% of the total adult population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Reaching the 70% figure does not mean the U.S. has achieved so-called herd immunity against the virus, the officials noted on the call.
Some health experts have argued that between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated against Covid to achieve herd immunity – the point at which enough people in a given community have antibodies against a specific disease.
But one official said herd immunity is actually more "elusive" and the U.S. should just focus on vaccinating as many people as possible to drive down hospitalizations and deaths.
"Covid-19 is going to vary in its degree and dynamics by community," according to the official. "So each community must individually strive to reach the goal of vaccinating 70% of his population by July 4."
Biden, who made Covid his main focus when he took office Jan. 20, previously identified July 4 as a significant date in the United States' fight against the pandemic.
In his first prime-time address to the nation in March, Biden set a goal for Americans to be able to gather in person with their friends and loved ones in small groups to celebrate the holiday.
"If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon, our economy will be on the mend, our kids will be back in school, and we'll have proven once again that this country can do anything," Biden said at that time.