Biden raises the bar on vaccines and suggests US will get to 1.5 million a day

(CNN)President Joe Biden said Monday that he expects that the US will soon be able to vaccinate 1.5 million people a day, raising the bar by roughly 500,000 more vaccinations than its target of 1 million per day in his first 100 days in office. He said that the US could surpass that initial target in about three weeks.

“I’m quite confident that we will be in a position within the next three weeks or so to be vaccinating people at the range of 1 million a day or in excess of that,” he told reporters, clarifying that he was referring to 100 million shots, not necessarily 100 million people, since some of the vaccines require more than one shot.

Biden said the key factors in ramping up vaccinations are having enough vaccine, having enough syringes and other necessary equipment and having enough people administering them. He said his administration is working to produce additional vaccinators — people who can administer the vaccine.

“I think with the grace of God, the goodwill of the neighbor and the creek not rising, as the old saying goes, I think we may be able to get that to 1.5 million a day, rather than 1 million a day,” he said.

Soon after Biden’s briefing, a White House official told CNN that the administration’s official goal still remains 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.

It’s a goal that the White House still views as “ambitious but achievable,” the official said, but they also anticipate that plenty of things could go wrong given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic. However, the official stressed that the hope now was to surpass that original goal of 100 million vaccine shots in the first 100 days.

Describing Biden as an “optimist,” the official also said the President has been pushing his Covid team to aim for progress beyond their initial goal of 100 million vaccines doses in 100 days.

Biden’s announcement came the same day that officials for Pfizer and Moderna said it will take time to scale up manufacturing for their vaccines.

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge relayed that vaccine makers have an obligation to maintain quality and consistency as they scale up capacity.

“That’s the frustrating thing about scaling up,” Hoge said.

The increase in vaccinations will not necessarily move the target timeline for getting vaccines to anyone in the US who wants one.

The President said that he thinks anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get it by this spring, a target date similar to one set under the Trump administration.

Biden’s commitment to ramp up coronavirus vaccinations comes among a larger list of efforts discussed the White House on Monday to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden signed a presidential proclamation on Monday reinstating the travel restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic for individuals traveling to the United States from the Schengen Area in Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and South Africa.

And speaking to reporters, Biden also referenced the importance of creating a forum where Americans “can show up, stand in line, and get their vaccine without having to stand in line for eight hours — being able to pick up the phone, call the pharmacy and get your name on the list(.)”

But the new efforts come amid ongoing confusion and urgent concerns across different states over the country’s coronavirus vaccine supply and distribution.

Earlier Monday, New York City Health Commissioner David Chokshi told CNN that the city “does not have enough doses” of Covid-19 vaccine to “be able to meet the demand we know exists among New Yorkers.”

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, said Florida’s capacity far outweighs the amount of vaccine they have been given by the federal government. And Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker similarly said that the state is “setting up the capacity to administer far more doses, then we are currently receiving or projecting to receive from the (federal government).”

Over the last two days, both Biden’s top spokeswoman, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said they did not know the what the current coronavirus vaccine supply levels are. Both blamed the Trump administration for the problem.

But speaking to press on Monday, Biden claimed that his administration does know how many coronavirus vaccines are available in the US. However, he did not disclose any concrete numbers.

“(W)e are optimistic that we will have enough vaccine. And in very short order. As you know, we came in office without knowledge of how much vaccine was out being held in abeyance are available. Now that we’re here, we’ve been around a week or so, we now have that,” Biden said. “And we’ve gotten commitments from some of the producers that they will in fact produce more vaccine in a relatively short period of time and then continue that down the road.”

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