The Biden administration on Tuesday acknowledged that it wouldn’t meet the president’s goal of getting 70 percent of Americans 18 and older at least one coronavirus shot by July Fourth.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already met the “aspirational target,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said at a briefing of the White House COVID-19 response team. In that regard, he said the vaccination campaign had “moved at an unprecedented speed.”
But falling vaccination rates, shown below, are going to make it impossible to close the gap between the current 65.4 percent rate and the goal of 70 by the deadline.
States in certain parts of the country have been lagging behind, keeping the national average down.
The map below shows rates for adults across the United States who have received at least one shot. Four states, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Wyoming, have rates below 50 percent. (Use the dropdown box to change the map view to see the percentage of total residents who have received at least one shot.)
Zients also emphasized at the briefing that younger adults need to get vaccinated.
He said that the nation had already met Biden’s 70 percent goal for all Americans age 30 and above and would meet that goal for people 27 and above by the time data from the Fourth of July weekend is tallied.
“Where the country has more work to do is particularly with 18- to 26-year-olds,” he said.
“The reality is many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them, and they’ve been less eager to get the shot,” he said. “However, with the delta variant now spreading across the country, and infecting younger people worldwide, it’s more important than ever that they get vaccinated. We are working with state and local leaders to reach them.”
He estimated it would take a “few extra weeks” to eventually reach Biden’s goal of 70 percent of all adults with at least one shot.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not break down vaccination by age the way the White House officials did at the briefing, but data it does provide show that there is a significant gap in vaccinations between younger and older people.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said in a tweet it was critical to help more Americans get vaccinated. “Relentless misinformation has slowed us down,” he said.
Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a former assistant US secretary of health and state public health commissioner, said the country would likely reach the 70 percent target at the end of July, not at the beginning.
“That issue is much less of a concern than the fact that some states currently have only half the vaccination rates of others currently. More needs to be done to reach and protect everyone,” he said in an e-mail.
Experts have said falling slightly short of the Fourth of July goal wouldn’t make much of an epidemiological difference. But it would be the first time Biden has set a pandemic-related goal he has not met. Biden has continually set relatively modest targets for himself and exceeded them, including his pledge to get 100 million shots in the arms of Americans by his first 100 days in office.
Zients reiterated at the briefing that 300 million shots had been administered in the first 150 days of the Biden administration, an achievement the White House announced last week.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said that the 70 percent goal was “not the goal line, nor is it the endgame. The endgame is to go well beyond that, beyond July 4 into the summer and beyond, with the ultimate goal of crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.”
“What are one of the main obstacles for that? Obviously, it’s undervaccinated people and undervaccinated regions of the country, particularly among the young,” he said at the briefing.
Fauci issued a warning about the delta variant, saying it was “currently the greatest threat in the US to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19.”
He said there will be a “real danger” if a portion of the population continues to decline to get vaccinated for COVID-19. ”If there’s a persistence of a recalcitrant group that doesn’t get vaccinated, there will be local type of regional spikes and outbreaks,” he said.
Fauci added that future spikes are “totally and completely avoidable” if those who have not yet been vaccinated get their shots.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.