(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden set a goal of administering 200 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of April, doubling his target for his first 100 days in office.
The U.S. is on pace to meet the new goal, Biden said in opening remarks at his first formal news conference on Thursday.
“I know it’s ambitious,” Biden said at the White House. “I believe we can do it.”
Biden set his original goal of giving 100 million shots in 100 days in December, before the U.S. vaccination campaign accelerated. The U.S. hit the target earlier this month, on his 58th full day in office.
At its current pace, the U.S. would record just over 203 million shots by the end of Biden’s 100th full day in office.
The country may be able to exceed Biden’s new target as manufacturers ramp up production. Johnson & Johnson is set to sharply increase shipments that have only trickled out since its vaccine was authorized a month ago, while Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have also steadily increased their pace.
Biden said the pandemic required the vaccination effort and the $1.9 trillion stimulus he pushed through Congress to be his focus in the early weeks of his presidency.
“The fundamental problem is getting people some peace of mind so they can go to bed at night and not stare at the ceiling wondering whether they lost their health insurance, whether they’re going to lose a family member, whether they’re going to be in a position where they’re not going to be, they’re going to lose their home because they can’t pay their mortgage, or the millions of people are going to get thrown out of their home because of the inability to pay the rent,” he said, in answer to a question about other items on his agenda that face Republican opposition.
“So, we’re going to move on these one at a time, try to do as many simultaneously as we can. But that’s the reason why I focused as I have,” he said.
Biden has previously said the U.S. will have enough vaccine for all adults by the end of May, though administration officials have said administering the shots could take longer. Biden has also previously directed states to fully open eligibility to all adults no later than May 1.
The U.S. has administered more than 130 million shots so far, easily the best of any nation. That includes 16.5 million under Donald Trump’s administration. By comparison, Germany leads the European Union, giving out 11 million shots in total.
From the moment the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna, the U.S. government, first under Trump and then under Biden, had already arranged to buy all of the companies’ known U.S. production for months to come, leaving many other countries to wait or turn to other sources.
Still, U.S. infections remain high. Cases have fallen since a peak in January, but that decline has stalled, prompting warnings from health officials that people shouldn’t abandon masks and other mitigation measures. Federal health officials have also rebuked states that have fully lifted mask mandates and business capacity limits, saying doing so threatens to fuel the outbreak.
Variants of the virus, some of which spread more easily, are taking hold in the U.S. Those could be increasing case totals even as the number of vaccinations rise. Only about 13% of the country is fully vaccinated so far.