The Biden administration said on Tuesday that the US is unlikely to meet the president’s goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of the country’s adult population by 4 July.
An unnamed official, speaking with The Washington Post, told the newspaper that the administration is shifting to a more realistic goal of ensuring that 70 per cent of adult Americans aged 27 and over are vaccinated by the end of the 4 July holiday weekend, when many Americans will be celebrating Independence Day.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later confirmed the news at her daily news briefing, but said that the target would be met in a matter of “several weeks”.
Calling the original goal a “bold and ambitious” target, Ms Psaki added that the White House did not see the announcement as a failure and vowed that the administration would continue working to vaccinate Americans.
“It’s not just Dr Fauci on Tik Tok, though that is happening,” she quipped, when asked about efforts to encourage younger American adults to get vaccinated.
“We’ll build on [these approaches] from there,” Ms Psaki said, adding that “access and making it as easy as possible is the name of the game”.
“We want this to be just a box [young people] can check on their weekends,” she added.
In May, President Joe Biden announced that he believed the US could meet its goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of adults by 4 July, and at the time the US was administering vaccines at a rate that put the country on pace to meet the target easily.
"I'd like to get it to 100 per cent, but I think realistically we can get to that place between now and July 4th," Mr Biden said at the time.
“If we succeed in this effort,” he added, “then Americans will have taken a serious step toward a return to normal”.
The US rate of vaccinations has slipped considerably in recent weeks, however, as more than a dozen states and Washington DC have met the target, while nearly three dozen have not.
About 46 per cent of Americans have fully completed their vaccination regimens, including roughly 8 in 10 seniors. The US hit 150 million fully vaccinated persons on Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while more than 177 million have received at least one dose, about 65 percent of US adults.
“When we took office, we didn’t waste a second getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track. Just five months later, we’ve administered over 300 million shots and unemployment is at its lowest level since the pandemic started,” Mr Biden wrote in a tweet on Monday, adding: “America is coming back.”
Concerns about America’s slipping vaccination comes as health experts have warned that a new variant of Covid-19, dubbed the Delta variant, is spreading across the US. The variant is believed to be more transmissible than previous strains and it also causes stronger symptoms in victims.
The US is now reporting less than 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day, and has also seen its rate of deaths from the virus continue to fall in recent weeks.
Vaccine hesitancy is thought to be the main obstacle preventing the US from reaching its goal of herd immunity against Covid-19, with some demographics such as younger Americans and some communities of colour seeing particularly high rates. A survey in early June found that only about one in five of those who say they are unlikely to get a vaccine are open to changing their minds.
In mid-April, the Biden administration made all US adults eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Younger Americans including teens are also eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, provided they are age 12 or over, while children are not yet eligible. Clinical trials are underway to study the effects of the vaccines on young children, and experts have said that those vaccinations could begin later this year.
While the administration has praised the US efforts to develop a vaccine last year, Mr Biden himself and other administration officials have blamed former president Donald Trump for not taking the US vaccination rollout seriously.
"While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor – I’ll be very blunt about it – did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions," Mr Biden said in February.
"He did not order enough vaccines ... It was a big mess. It’s going to take time to fix," Mr Biden added at the time.