“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 neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day,” said Biden during a press conference on Thursday. “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 we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
While previous COVID-19 directives from the Biden administration have been non-binding recommendations, “aides stressed that, using the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, its vaccine order will be binding, and states’ compliance will be mandatory,” reports STAT News.
Alaska and some counties in Arizona have already opened up vaccination to all people over the age of 18. Michigan will begin allowing those age 16 and older to be vaccinated on April 5. Eligibility in most other states, however, is currently limited to at-risk individuals, like people over the age of 65, those with underlying health issues, and essential workers.
Listen to a biochemist explain how vaccines work:
The announcement of the forthcoming directive comes as pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are expanding access to vaccine appointments around the country. But so far, even those who are eligible experienced difficulty getting an appointment due in large part to overcrowded phone lines and confusing websites. President Biden is taking steps to ensure such issues are resolved by May 1. On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a new portal as the Biden administration ramps up efforts to recruit more vaccinators, deploying thousands of federal agency personnel to administer COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country.
“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,” said Biden. “No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.”
Limited vaccine availability, which has also made securing an appointment difficult, should also be less of an issue. “Because of all the work we’ve done, we will have enough vaccine for all adults in America by the end of May,” said Biden. “That’s months ahead of schedule, and we are mobilizing thousands of vaccinators to put the vaccine in one’s arm.”
Increased vaccine dose availability has been made possible by the authorization of three COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. And while the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have emerged as favorites due to their high efficacy rates, experts stress that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a great and safe option. It only requires one dose and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, which makes it particularly more viable in rural communities where pharmacies are few and far between.
As we enter the warmer months, the return to a sense of normalcy is just around the corner. But we have to continue to follow the advice of public health officials to ensure it becomes our reality.
“A July 4th with your loved ones is the goal. But a goal—a lot can happen; conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread,” said Biden. “We need everyone to get vaccinated. We need everyone to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced, and keep wearing the masks as recommended by the CDC. Because even if we devote every resource we have, beating this virus and getting back to normal depends on national unity.”
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