US President Joe Biden on Thursday said his administration would seek to make all adult Americans eligible for the coronavirus vaccine by May 1, in the first primetime address of his presidency. The speech came one year after the World Health Organization labeled the global coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
"While it was different for everyone, we all lost something," he said of the sacrifices made during the pandemic.
Biden has said his administration would have enough vaccine doses for every American by the end of May. The White House recently struck a deal to boost production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot.
"Tonight, I'm announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults age 18 and older eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1," Biden declared.
The president said his administration is on track to allocate 100 million vaccine doses to Americans in his first 60 days in office. Biden's original goal was 100 million vaccine doses in the first 100 days of his presidency.
Biden: Small gatherings on July 4
Biden said if Americans continue following health guidelines and wait their turn for vaccinations, small gatherings would be possible by July 4 for Independence Day celebrations.
"I need you. I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn ... if we do all this ... by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout," Biden said in the address.
At the same time, the president said the fight against COVID-19 is "far from over" and added that restrictions could be reimposed if there is a surge in cases.
Biden said his administration would ramp up its efforts to vaccinate Americans in rural areas, with vaccines also being delivered to hundreds of community health centers to help underprivileged communities.
Biden to visit Pennsylvania to promote rescue package
The remarks from Biden come hours after he signed a $1.9 trillion (1.6 trillion euros) economic stimulus package into law. The package, formally known as the American Rescue Plan, includes direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, along with boosted unemployment insurance, aid to state and local governments and financial help for small businesses.
"This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people and middle-class folks, the people who built the country — a fighting chance," Biden said in a signing ceremony on Friday.
Biden will hit the road next week to promote the package in a nationwide tour. On Tuesday, Biden will visit his home state of Pennsylvania to stump for the bill.
wd/sms (AP, Reuters)