Biden told states to expand vaccine eligibility to people 18 or older by April 19, two weeks earlier than the May 1 deadline he announced previously. Although testing is underway, no COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized yet for children under 16.
Most U.S. states have already stated they would open vaccines to all adults by that new target date, and while more than 80% of teachers and school staff had received at least one vaccination shot, Biden said, new variants of the coronavirus are spreading and generating a rise in cases.
Biden Calls for Enabling Vaccination of All Adults by May
“What we do now is going to determine how many people we’ll save or lose in the month of April and May, and June, before we get to July Fourth,” Biden said at a White House event.
“We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life-or-death race,” Biden said.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Biden’s announcement confirmed for the public that “everyone is eligible around the country," which means that Americans no longer need to check with state and local websites to see whether they qualify, she said.
“No more confusing rules,” said Biden.
As more contagious virus variants circulate, vaccine supplies and efficiency have increased in people race to get inoculated.
“Governors - Democrats and Republicans - are working with (the White House COVID-19 response team) to accelerate the vaccination program,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said on Twitter.
When vaccine doses were in shorter supply, states started by limiting distribution to high-risk groups, such as the elderly and front-line healthcare workers, after which they gradually opened up vaccines to other age and at-risk groups.
After taking office January 20, Biden set a goal of delivering 100 million shots into people’s arms within his first 100 days in office, which is the end of April. The goal has since been doubled to 200 million.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 555,000 people in the United States - the world’s highest death toll. That said, more than 167 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country. That means four in ten U.S. citizens have had at least one vaccine dose to date—a rate far ahead of most countries.
Both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech require two doses, while Johnson & Johnson’s is a one-shot vaccine. Pfizer's vaccine is authorized for those aged 16 and up, whereas the other two can only be given to adults age 18 and older.