With vaccination goal in doubt, Biden warns of COVID-19 variant’s threat

210407 Biden
“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared. Image Credit: Reuters

Washington: With the United States unlikely to reach his self-imposed deadline of having 70 per cent of adults partly vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4, President Joe Biden on Friday stepped up his drive for Americans to get their shots, warning that those who decline risk becoming infected by a highly contagious and potentially deadly variant.

In an afternoon appearance at the White House, Biden avoided mentioning the 70 per cent target that he set in early May and instead trumpeted a different milestone: 300 million shots in his first 150 days in office. But even as he hailed the vaccination campaign’s success, he sounded a somber note about the worrisome delta variant, which is spreading in states with low vaccination rates.

“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared.

His remarks came as his administration begins a final push to reach the July 4 goal over the next two weeks.

Barely underway

Biden took office in January warning of a “dark winter” ahead, as deaths were near peak levels and vaccinations were barely underway, and he has generally tried to portray the virus as in retreat as he approaches six months in office.

A fact sheet distributed by the White House before Friday’s remarks noted that in 15 states and the District of Columbia, 70 per cent of adults or more have received at least one shot.

But rates of vaccination and of infection are uneven around the country.

And while those who took a “wait and see” attitude are becoming more open to getting vaccinated, 20 per cent of American adults still say they will definitely not get the vaccine or will get vaccinated only if it is required, according to a poll released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

An analysis by The New York Times shows that if the rate of adult vaccinations continues on the seven-day average, the country will fall just short of Biden’s 70 per cent goal, with 67.6 per cent of American adults having had at least one shot by July 4.

As of Friday, 65 per cent of adults have had at least one shot, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts say that from a disease control perspective, the difference between 67 per cent and 70 per cent is insignificant. But from a political perspective, it would be the first time Biden has set a pandemic-related goal that he has not met.