The Biden administration will not pressure states to forgo unused vaccine doses. That decision entirely rests with each state, according to a Department of Health and Human Services official.
The Biden administration has previously resisted calls to allocate doses on the basis of need rather than population. Notably, it rejected the Democratic Michigan government. Gretchen Whitmer requested more doses in March and April to help curb the spread of the virus in her state.
But the vaccination campaign is in a new phase now. Management is moving away from the mass sites and is making more targeted efforts to reach people who are hesitant or unenthusiastic to get shots. Biden would ask retail pharmacies that receive direct doses from the federal government to allow indirect appointments. The department is also redirecting FEMA resources to support smaller pop-up vaccination clinics and will begin shipping vaccines directly to rural health clinics in disadvantaged communities.
The White House will also launch a teen vaccination plan, which will focus on getting the vaccine to pediatricians. The FDA is expected to soon authorize the Pfizer injection to children ages 12 to 15, allowing millions more to be vaccinated.
An administration official stressed that reaching the vaccination target of 70 percent does not necessarily mean that the country has achieved herd immunity, which is the point at which enough Americans are protected against the virus that will not spread widely. Health experts have estimated that between 70 and 85 percent will need protection from the virus to reach herd immunity, but there are various factors that can affect this.
Researchers do not yet know how long protection from infection or previous vaccination will last. Even if the vaccination spreads across the country, the virus can still spread rapidly in areas of the country with low vaccination rates.
“Many of us said between 70 and 85 percent, but we don’t know that for sure,” the official told reporters. That is why we want to focus on vaccinating the largest possible number of people as quickly as possible and as quickly as possible. “
The administration easily achieved the first two vaccination goals of giving 100 million doses, then 200 million doses, in its first 100 days. Public health officials have long acknowledged that the next phase of vaccines will be tough.
Claire Hanan, president of the Association of Immunization Directors, said it is important to define these types of targets, but it remains unclear how many of the unvaccinated population are strongly opposed to receiving an injection.
Biden acknowledged the challenge on Tuesday, and promised to “stick to it.”
“I think that ultimately, most people will be convinced of the fact that their failure to get the vaccine may cause other people to fall ill and may die,” he said.
Nick Needswede contributed to this report.