White House concedes it will not meet goal of having 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4

President Joe Biden
Posted at 10:03 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 23:35:55-04

The Biden administration on Tuesday conceded that it will likely miss its current goal to have 70% of U.S. adults partially vaccinated by July 4.

During a briefing of the White House COVID-19 response team, coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that the U.S. will likely fall short of the goal set by President Joe Biden in early May.

Zients noted that the vaccination rates among young adults aged 18 to 26 were the reason the White House was slated to miss the goal. He said the U.S. would likely reach the 70% partial vaccination rate a "few weeks after July 4.

However, Zients defended the Biden administration's work in getting shots in arms, pointing to the fact that 70% of Americans 30 and older have been vaccinated and adding that the administration is on track to vaccinate 70% of Americans 27 and older by July 4.

He said that the vaccine program has been more effective than the team could have imagined in March when Biden said he hoped to celebrate Independence Day with "independence from the virus."

Zients noted that at that time, the Biden administration could not promise that Americans would be able to safely return to large gatherings. Just weeks later the CDC said that it was safe for vaccinated Americans to drop social distancing requirements.

"We are there. The virus is in retreat in communities across the country. ... we are in store for a summer of freedom," Zients said.

"We have built an unparalleled, first-of-its-kind nationwide vaccination program," Zients added. "We want every American in every community to be free from fear of the virus...we're not stopping at 70%, and we're not stopping on July 4."

Zients also defended the Biden administration's record by pointing to the fact that new cases of COVID-19 and deaths linked to the virus have dropped to their lowest levels since March 2020 — a fact that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky confirmed later on in the briefing.

White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain defended the Biden administration's work on Tuesday morning shortly after the NBC News and PBS reports broke.

"150 million Americans fully vaccinated, 70% of everyone over 30 with one shot -- and more to come before July 4th," he tweeted.

At the daily White House press briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back on questions asking what went wrong in the Biden administration's path to 70% partial vaccination by July 4.

"We don't exactly see it as something went wrong. We set a bold and ambitious goal...and we're expected to meet that goal in a few short weeks."

"There's no playbook for this, there's no record.," Psaki said when asked if she thought the mark was achievable when it was set in May. "The president's view is that we should set bold and ambitious goals."

Tuesday's press conference comes just weeks after Biden announced several White House partnerships for vaccination incentive programs with several large companies. Among those incentive programs were sweepstakes entries for those who got vaccinated at several large retail chains, free beer when the U.S. reaches the 70% threshold and free tickets to sports games for those who get vaccinated at mobile clinics.

Biden also partnered with nationwide childcare providers to offer free drop-in care so parents could get the vaccine, offered tax credits to small- and medium-sized businesses who provided time off to employees who got vaccinated and partnered with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to vaccination clinics.

The Biden administration easily met two previous vaccine goals set by the president. Following his election, Biden said he hoped to deliver 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office. His administration met that goal just 58 days into his term.

Biden then doubled that goal to 200 million doses in his first 100 days in office, a milestone he reached with about a week to spare.

Meanwhile, First Lady Jill Biden is touring the country to talk about the vaccine. Tuesday she stopped in Jackson, Mississippi, citing a vaccination rate of about 35 percent.

"The vaccines might feel like a miracle but there’s no faith required. They’re a result of decades of rigorous scientific research and studies," she said.

Thursday, the First Lady is expected to stop at a vaccination event in Kissimmee and Tampa.

There is a vaccination rate around 56 percent in Florida, according to the latest data available from the Florida Department of Health. For those 65 and older, the rate is higher, around 83 percent. In age brackets from 12-39 years old, the rate drops from 42 percent to 26 percent.

"It’s an uneven distribution of vaccination rates right now and so it is important that we continue to target people make sure they’re having reliable access to information on the value of the vaccine and doing everything we can to make sure there are no barriers in place for them to come out and get vaccinated," said Jason Salemi, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida.

He expects Florida to hit the 70 percent mark if it maintains its current vaccination pace by the end of July, though if the rate were to slow by half, that could be pushed to September.

Across the country, Florida ranks in the middle among states.

The Governor's office explained the state has worked to ensure every Floridian who wants a vaccine can get one, citing its wide availability in Florida for several months. They stated in part:

"However, some Floridians may be unable or unwilling to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination due to health, religious, or other personal reasons. Governor DeSantis trusts Floridians to make the best choices for themselves and their families, in partnership with their healthcare providers. The government’s role is to provide information about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and to help ensure Floridians can get the vaccines if they so choose, which is exactly what the DeSantis Administration has done. If some people refrain from getting the COVID-19 vaccine for any reason, that is their right."