President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he wants 70% of the adult population in the U.S. to have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose by July 4, up from the current level of 56%.
Some experts believe that the spread of Covid-19 could slow dramatically once the population hits the point of about 70% vaccination.
“Get vaccinated,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “In two months, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation, and our independence from this virus.”
Biden also said that he is aiming to have 160 million people fully vaccinated by that date, which would require about 100 million doses to be administered over the next two months.
Slowing down: The new goal comes as the pace of vaccination has slowed, and Biden said his administration was working on programs that aim to reach more Americans, including walk-in appointments at pharmacies, pop-up clinics and mobile vaccination units.
The federal government is also changing the rules for shipping vaccines. If a state does not order its full weekly allotment, the unused doses can now be sent to other states that request more, rather than reserved for future use by the first state.
Drug store losses: Waste is also a worrisome problem. According to a report by Kaiser Health News Monday, 182,874 doses of vaccine had been thrown out as of late March. Two national drug store chains accounted for about 70% of the total, with CVS and Walgreens throwing away about 128,500 shots.
“CDC data suggests that the companies have wasted more doses than states, U.S. territories and federal agencies combined,” KHN said. “Pfizer’s vaccine, which in December was the first to be deployed and initially required storage at ultracold temperatures, represented nearly 60% of tossed doses.”
Although it’s not clear why the drug stores wasted so many doses, some critics say the problem dates back to the chaotic, early days of the vaccination program, when the Trump administration relied on the two national chains to deliver doses to long-term care facilities.
Health officials hope that those initial problems have been resolves, leading to lower wastage rates moving forward. It could be hard to tell, however, since the data is less than perfect. “Months into the nation’s vaccination drive, the CDC has a limited view of how much vaccine is going to waste, where it’s wasted and who is wasting it, potentially complicating efforts to direct doses to where they are needed most,” KHN said. “Public health experts say having a good handle on waste is crucial for detecting problems that could derail progress and risk lives.”