WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he wants 70% of American adults to receive at least one COVID-19 vaccination and more than half of U.S. adults to be fully vaccinated by the Fourth of July.
“Go get the shot as soon as you can,” Biden urged in a speech Tuesday afternoon.
The Independence Day milestone wouldn’t herald the achievement of long-awaited herd immunity when the spread of COVID-19 would be unlikely, senior administration officials emphasized. But it would significantly drive down infections and hospitalization and deaths in many communities.
While chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci had previously estimated herd immunity to be achievable with 60% to 70% of people vaccinated, the more infectious B.1.1.7 variant has pushed that estimate up.
Fauci and other infectious disease experts recently expressed doubt that the U.S. can reach herd immunity against COVID-19.
“Seventy percent coverage would provide a substantial degree of herd immunity but would likely not get us to the threshold … at which with normal, prepandemic contact patterns the virus would be unable to spread substantially,” Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch said in an email to CQ Roll Call. “Summer weather and less indoor contact may suppress transmission over the summer making this close to good enough, but I don’t think it will get us all the way there.”
The administration’s July 4 goal also signals that the administration expects the vaccination rate to continue at a slower pace than at its peak last month. The administration will shift away from mass vaccination clinics to walk-in appointments at retail pharmacies and other more localized places, according to a White House fact sheet.
“As we wind down mass vaccination sites, we’ll move to smaller locations even more convenient to the unvaccinated,” Biden said.
That shift was anticipated as public health authorities take a more personal approach to reaching vaccine-hesitant communities and people who lack access to health care, experts say. It also comes as the Federal Emergency Management Agency faces historic staffing shortages ahead of the beginning of hurricane season on June 1.
Biden encouraged Americans to text their ZIP code to the number 438829 to receive a text with a vaccination site near them.