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Biden urges states that have eased mask mandates to reinstate them as he outlines latest vaccine efforts

President Joe Biden.Evan Vucci

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said Monday that 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine in three weeks, and that his administration will more than double the number of pharmacies where shots are available, as cases begin to rise again.

“Look at what we have done in the last ten weeks. No other country has come close,” Biden said at the White House. But he urged states that have eased restrictions on masks and other prevention measures to reinstate them: “The war against Covid-19 is far from won.”

Biden made the announcement Monday afternoon at the White House, marking April 19 as a new milestone in the vaccination effort. He also said that nearly all U.S. adults will be able to get a shot within 5 miles of their homes.


The announcement comes as the U.S. continues to ramp up its inoculation effort. Biden doubled his goal for vaccines last week after the U.S. reached his initial target six weeks early.

The U.S. is on pace to soon administer 3 million doses a day of Covid-19 vaccine, as the supply increases and states widen eligibility. After stalling at about 2.5 million doses a day, the rate of shots administered in the U.S. has started to again climb.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the U.S. reported a total of more than 10 million shots in arms -- a record three-day stretch that helped push up the average rate, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Roughly three-quarters of vaccines still go directly to states, but Biden has steered a growing share to federal channels, including pharmacies, as supply has increased. That shift has allowed Biden to target disadvantaged zip codes as he tries to address disparities in access, often along racial lines.

At the same time, Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans to wear masks and stick with Covid-19 mitigation measures, warning of “impending doom” as cases, hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise again.


Speaking at a press briefing Monday, she fought back tears as she outlined a series of warning signals and said she was frightened about a looming fourth wave of Covid cases. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared,” Walensky said.

As part of his announcement, Biden described plans to launch a dozen more community vaccination sites in the next three weeks. He said vaccines will be made available at nearly 40,000 pharmacies over that time period, from about 17,000 now.

Biden previously directed states to open eligibility to all adults no later than May 1. A total of 31 states have said they will fully open eligibility by April 19. Biden’s announcement Monday is based on those moves -- and will mean roughly 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible, he said.

Biden has said the U.S. will have enough supply by the end of May to vaccinate all U.S. adults, though administering the shots could take longer. Until recently, eligibility was typically based on age or whether a person had underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk. Full adult eligibility means anyone 16 or older can get the shot, regardless of medical history.


The 7-day average of daily shots administered has climbed to 2.7 million, the highest level yet. Biden has pledged to administer 200 million shots in total under his presidency by the end of next month and is on pace to do that.

Biden also announced $100 million in funding to help vaccinate vulnerable and at-risk older adults, and people with disabilities. The program would be aimed at getting those high-risk people scheduled for, and taken to, vaccine appointments, including those with mobility challenges.

The U.S. vaccine effort is buoyed by vast supplies. The administrations of Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, have used wartime powers to prioritize U.S. government orders.

Biden has said the U.S. will begin sharing shots with other nations once it has enough to cover all U.S. adults, including the potential need for booster shots and a stockpile for children, given the uncertainty over which vaccines will be best for younger age groups.