Feb 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's big summertime verdict

President Biden is seen speaking with reporters assembled under the wing of Air Force One.

President Biden after visiting the Pfizer vaccine plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., last week. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is promising COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all Americans by the end of July — and a Quinnipiac poll finds three-quarters of Americans expect him to pull it off.  If he fails, the coronavirus could start to haunt the new president just like it did his predecessor.

Why it matters: Biden’s presidency is built on the notion of restoring competence — and confidence — in government. So, he'll need the huge infusion of cash from his virus relief bill — and heroics by drugmakers and distributors — to carry out mass vaccinations.

  • He'll need to hit or near this mark if America is truly going to return to normal for the fall school season. 
  • And he'll need to hit or near this mark to make good on his belief that life will return to "approaching normalcy" by Christmas.

Here's the big asterisk: Administration officials say the U.S. will have enough vaccine (600 million doses) to give everyone two shots by July 29. But they know not everyone will take it.

  • "[T]he reluctant and the hesitant will drag this out all fall," a top official tells me.
  • That's partly because of the historically rooted suspicion of vaccines among minorities, and many largely poor or isolated populations.

Here are things that could prevent Biden from hitting his goals:

  • Resistance from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • A violent new wave and strain of the virus. This could result from people getting sick of COVID isolation, and dropping their guard with the advent of warm weather.
  • An inability or reluctance of some states to find the right balance of COVID restrictions.
  • A foreign policy crisis that occupies Biden and his team.
  • Conservative media hammering his efforts on a nightly basis, adding to the vaccine reluctance and suspicion of Democratic plans.
  • The economy fails to grow, and the stock market stutters and slumps.
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