Biden shakes up vaccine strategy as he sets new goal

The Biden administration will soon allow states to order coronavirus shots that other states aren’t using, marking a major shift in strategy as the White House readies a new push to lift falling vaccination rates.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday will also unveil a new goal of providing at least one vaccine dose to 70 percent of adults by July Fourth, when he has long said Americans can regain a sense of normalcy if the vaccination campaign didn’t get sidetracked.

“If we make progress towards this goal, more and more Americans gain protection from Covid-19,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters, previewing Biden’s Tuesday afternoon speech on the vaccination campaign. “We should see case counts, hospitalizations and deaths continue to fall, and America will have taken a serious step toward a return to normal.”

More than 56 percent of Americans have received at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in recent weeks, vaccine supply has begun outpacing the demand in some parts of the country. Some states have said they aren’t ordering all their shots allotted each week.

States receive weekly vaccine allotments based on their populations. The new move lets states that don’t order all available doses put them into a pool for other states to order from that week, rather than roll over in the following week. Other states with greater demand for vaccines can request those doses and receive up to 50 percent of their regular allocation. The change won’t affect how much vaccine the state receives the following week.

The Biden administration said it won’t pressure states to forego unused vaccine doses. That decision rests entirely with each individual state, according to an official with the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Biden administration has previously resisted calls to allocate doses based on need rather than population. Notably, it rejected Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for more doses in March and April to help curb a virus surge in her state.

The administration is also outlining new ways of ramping up vaccinations, as the White House begins to move away from mass sites and makes more targeted efforts to reach people hesitant or unmotivated to get shots. Biden will ask retail pharmacies who received doses directly from the federal government to allow walk-in appointments. The administration is also redirecting FEMA resources to support smaller pop-up vaccination clinics and will start shipping vaccines directly to rural health clinics in underserved communities.

The White House will also launch a plan to vaccinate adolescents, which will focus on getting the vaccine to pediatricians. The FDA is expected to soon authorize Pfizer’s shot for kids ages 12 to 15, allowing millions more to get vaccinated.


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