Biden directs states to make all adults eligible for COVID vaccines by May 1

Joey Garrison
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — In his first prime-time address as president Thursday night, Joe Biden directed all states to make all American adults eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines no later than May 1.

And if Americans "all do our part" in the coming weeks, friends and families will be able to join together in small groups in time for Fourth of July celebrations, the president said.

"July 4th with your loved ones is the goal," Biden said, stressing that "a lot can happen. Conditions can change."

Biden's speech, clocking in at 24 minutes, came one year after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 breakout a pandemic, and hours after the president signed his $1.9 trillion stimulus package into law. 

More:President Biden signs $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill with $1,400 stimulus checks into law

The May 1 directive followed Biden's announcement last week that the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May, two months sooner than expected. 

Biden's directive does not mean all Americans will receive a shot immediately in May, but they should be eligible, an administration official said. 

The president also announced new steps to increase the number of vaccinators and places where people can get vaccinated. That includes deploying 4,000 additional military troops to support vaccination efforts, bringing the total number deployed to 6,000, and expanding the pool of vaccinators to include dentists, paramedics, veterinarians and other medical professionals. 

Biden said the federal government will begin distributing the vaccine directly to 700 additional community health centers, bringing the total to 950, and will double the number of pharmacies where the vaccine is available to 20,000. The number of federally run mass vaccination centers will also be doubled, Biden said.

President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, looks up after signing the American Rescue Plan.

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To accelerate vaccinations, the federal government will launch a new federal website to help set up vaccination appointments, Biden said.

Biden also talked about the reopening of schools, including steps to help schools implement regular COVID-19 screening tests following passage of the stimulus bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan. 

Around one-quarter of all Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccination, including 65% of Americans 65 or older, the most vulnerable population to the virus. When Biden entered office, only 8% of seniors had been vaccinated. 

The nation's vaccine supply received a boost this week when the White House announced the purchase of an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. The additional doses, when added to the vaccines from other sources, is more than enough to inoculate every American.

Johnson & Johnson has partnered with Merck, another pharmaceutical company, to help accelerate the production of vaccines.

More:First round of $1,400 COVID-19 relief checks to start hitting bank accounts this weekend, White House says

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.