May 5, 2021 - Health

Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet

Data: CDC, Our World in Data; Note: New Hampshire not including due to conflicting data from source; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: CDC, Our World in Data; Note: New Hampshire not including due to conflicting data from source; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Biden's latest vaccination goal — 70% of adults receiving one shot by July 4 — will be much harder to reach than his previous ones. And if the U.S. gets there, it will likely be driven by blue states.

Between the lines: The U.S. has already inoculated most of its vaccine-enthusiastic population. States are already beginning to see wide disparities in vaccination rates, largely along political lines.

Driving the news: The White House said yesterday that the president's new goal is to have 160 million Americans fully vaccinated and at least one shot administered to 70% of adults by July 4.

  • The White House is also changing its vaccine distribution strategy, the Washington Post reports, allowing shots to be reallocated from states where demand has waned to states where there are still people waiting to be vaccinated.

By the numbers: Around 106 million Americans are already fully vaccinated, and 148 million have received at least one dose, per the CDC.

  • Slightly more than 56% of adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, meaning 14% more of the adult population has to get a shot before July 4 to reach the president's goal.

Context: Biden's previous vaccination goals — 100 million doses in his first 100 days, which he then upped to 200 million — were relatively easy to meet.

  • This one is "going to be harder because the next group of people who need to get vaccinated are just much harder to reach. They're either far more ambivalent about getting vaccinated or have lots and lots of questions," said Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health.
  • "It is to me much harder than building super-sites where you can vaccinate thousands of people in a day," he added.

State of play: Most states are vaccinating fewer people than they were a month ago, but the drop has generally been steeper in red states.

  • Blue states tend to have already vaccinated a higher portion of their population. New Hampshire and Massachusetts have already met Biden's target — more than 70% of their adult populations have gotten at least one dose.
  • "As with the U.S. overall, most states appear to be at or near their COVID-19 vaccine tipping points – the point at which their supply is outstripping demand," a KFF analysis released yesterday concluded.

What they're saying: "The shift to allocating vaccine to states based on demand is an acknowledgement of the big differences in vaccine uptake by region, mostly along blue/red axis," tweeted Bob Wachter, chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine.

  • "It means the endgame will be a nation with some states nearly 100% protected against surges, & others less so."
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