On Dec. 8, 2020, President Joe Biden promised that his team would help administer 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine within his first 100 days in office. The administration has reached that goal, and on March 25 Biden set a new goal of 200 million shots administered in his first 100 days.
Before Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, about 20 million doses had been administered.
The White House says the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply to cover every American adult by the end of May, although it will take longer to administer those vaccines. That’s about 500 million doses, depending on what share of the vaccines require two shots.
When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available to everyone?
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, says he believes virtually every American adult will be eligible for a vaccine in April. From then, he said, “it would likely take at least several more months just logistically to get vaccine into people’s arms.”
During a March 11 speech, Biden said that he would direct states, tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1.
How quickly are vaccine doses being administered?
Can coronavirus vaccines be given any faster?
The pace of vaccine distribution could quicken soon. Here’s why:
A new vaccine: The FDA authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Feb. 27. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose and can be stored at the temperature of a normal refrigerator for up to three months. This will ease the challenges of distribution as well as the manufacturing and administration burden, as only half the number of doses are required to vaccinate the same number of people.
Increased supply: Pfizer and Moderna will deliver 100 million doses a month earlier than expected, in May instead of June.
The Biden administration also helped broker a deal in which Merck, a competing pharmaceutical company, will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production and ensure Merck factories are well-equipped to manufacture the vaccines.
More vaccinators and vaccination sites: More military personnel are deploying to vaccination sites to help administer shots, and the pool of people qualified to give vaccines has been expanded to include paramedics, physician assistants, and dentists, among others.
“It’s not enough to have a vaccine supply,” Biden said. “We need vaccinators, people who put the shots in people’s arms.”
The federal government plans to double the number of federally run mass vaccination sites, double the number of pharmacies at which the vaccine is available, and increase the number of community health centers directly receiving vaccines from 200 to 950. The White House says options to find vaccines nearby, both online and by phone, will launch by May 1 to make it easier for individuals to make vaccine appointments. Technology support will be offered to improve states’ websites.
When will we reach herd immunity?
Though there could be enough vaccine by May for every American, administering all those shots might take months longer because of logistical and administrative challenges.
How many people need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity? “I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent,” Fauci told The New York Times. At the current pace of vaccine administration, it will take several more months to get there. However, the pace has been increasing and will probably continue to quicken in the coming weeks.
Based on the current pace, when will we have given out enough shots?
When will the pandemic end?
When will things go back to normal? Biden suggested that by July 4, small groups will be able to get together again, and that the U.S. would be “approaching normalcy by the end of this year.”
“God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last,” Biden said while visiting a Pfizer manufacturing site. “But I can’t make that commitment to you.”
Both Biden and Fauci have emphasized that there are many uncertainties that could impact how quickly things improve. New strains of the virus could emerge or become dominant, reducing efficacy of the vaccines. Production or administration rates could stall or change for various reasons – the winter storm in Texas, for example, slowed vaccinations there considerably.
“But we’re doing everything the science has indicated we should do,” Biden said, “and people are stepping up to get everything done that has to be done.”
Speaking on CNN about a return to normalcy, Fauci said, “it may not be precisely the way it was in November 2019. But it’ll be much, much better than where we are now.”
Read more: What to expect before and after getting a COVID-19 vaccine
Note: Historical numbers may change over time as data is reported to the CDC.
Contributing: Shawn Sullivan and Javier Zarracina
Clarification: We clarified the Biden administration’s timeline for its goal of 100 million doses in the first section of this article on March 19.