Washington, Mar 12 (PTI) US President Joe Biden has announced that all adult Americans will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination by May 1 under an ambitious plan to get the country, worst-hit by the pandemic, closer to normal by July 4th, Independence Day.
In his first prime-time address to the nation on Thursday since assuming office on January 20, Biden offered an ambitious plan to lift the country from the worst health crisis using a pair of upcoming dates: May 1, by which he will order states to allow all adults to receive vaccines; and July 4, when he said Americans can again celebrate Independence Day in person.
'After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus,' he said in his address, shortly after he signed a USD 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package approved by the US Congress.
His speech also came a year after the outbreak was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Laying out new steps in the school reopening effort, Biden said his administration will continue to take steps to combat the spread of variants including expanding testing and genomic sequencing.
Biden said that he is using every power he has as President of the United States to put the US on a war footing to get the job done.
“It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean the war footing, and thank God we are making some real progress now. In my first full day in office, I outlined for you a comprehensive strategy to beat this pandemic. We have spent every day since attempting to carry it out,” he said.
As of Thursday, he said total deaths in America due to COVID-19 is over 527,000. That's more deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and 9/11 combined, he said.
“They were husbands, wives, sons, and daughters, grandparents, friends, neighbours, young and old. They leave behind loved ones unable to truly grief or to heal, even have a funeral...,” he said.
The US is the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 29,150,068 and 529,102, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Biden said his administration has been working with vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses of these three safe, effective vaccines. And now at the direction and with the assistance of his administration, Johnson & Johnson is working together with a competitor, Merck, to speed up and increase the capacity to manufacture new Johnson & Johnson vaccines which is one shot, he said.
Biden said at the start of his presidency, his goal was to get 100 million shots in people's arms in my first 100 days in office.
“Tonight, I can say we're not only going to meet that goal. We're going to beat that goal because we've actually been on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots in arms on my 60th day in office. No other country in the world has done this. None,” he asserted.
Announcing the next steps, he said that he is directing all states and territories to make all adults, people 18 and over, eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1. “Let me say that again. All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. That's much earlier than expected,” he said.
“Secondly, at the time when every adult is eligible in May, we will launch with our partners, new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot, including a new website that will help you first find the place to get vaccinated and the one nearest you.
“Thirdly, with the passage of the American Rescue Plan,... we can accelerate a massive nationwide effort to reopen our schools safely and meet my goal that I stated at the same time about 100 million shots of opening a majority of through 8 schools in my first 100 days in office,” he said.
Fourth, in the coming weeks, Biden said his administration will issue further guidance on what Americans can and cannot do once fully vaccinated to lessen the confusion, to keep people safe, and encourage more people to get vaccinated.
“And finally, fifth, and maybe most importantly, I promise I will do everything in my power. I will not relent until we beat this virus. But I need you, the American people, I need you. I need every American to do their part. That's not hyperbole, I need you,” he said, adding that he needs fellow countrymen to get vaccinated when it's their turn.
“If we do all this, if we do our part, we do this together, by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighbourhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said.
“On July 4th with your loved ones is the goal. But a goal---a lot can happen. Conditions can change,' he noted.
The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread. 'We've got work to do to ensure that everyone has confidence and the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines,” he said urging Americans to listen to scientists and doctors.
Biden also spoke out forcefully against a recent rise in hate crimes targeted at Asian Americans.
'At this very moment, so many of our fellow Americans are on the front lines of this pandemic, trying to save lives. And still -- still -- they are forced to live in fear for their lives, just walking down streets in America. It's wrong. It's un-American. And it must stop,' he said. PTI LKJ AMS AKJ AKJ