President Biden on Tuesday participated in his first televised town hall since taking office to give what can be classified as an educated guess: Vaccines will be available for every American by late July.
“What’s going to happen is it’s going to continue to increase as we move along. We will have reached 400 million doses by the end of May and 600 million by the end of July,” Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in Milwaukee, but the nation may not be back to normal until Christmas.
Of course, there’s some uncertainty around whether he will be able to deliver on that timetable, as the dates offered by politicians to bring the virus to heel keep shifting. Already it’s a change from Biden’s pledge just last month, when he said everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the spring. Biden on Tuesday laid much of the blame for needing to push back that timeline at the feet of the Trump administration: “Think of what we didn’t do” from the time the coronavirus arrived in the United States. “We wasted so much time.”
Last September, Donald Trump — whom Biden referred to as “the former guy” — expected to have enough vaccines for every American by April. Before that, he was even parroting a long-shot pledge of having a vaccine ready by Election Day.
These shifting timetables are a consequence of rosy scenarios being undercut by hitches in the vaccine rollout, including widespread vaccine shortages. Before taking office, Biden promised to improve both the nation’s dismal pandemic-containment performance and what the Trump administration had called Operation Warp Speed, starting with reorganizing the slow and chaotic vaccine rollout. By January 15, the week before Biden was sworn in, 10.6 million Americans had received a COVID vaccine over the prior month. A month later, that figure stands at 58.8 million vaccine doses administered.
As spring approaches, the number of new infections is falling, and the vaccination program looks to have overcome some of its initial problems. The U.S. is currently administering coronavirus-vaccine doses to 1.7 million people per day on average, according to Axios. This represents a steady rise since the middle of January, when the average number of daily inoculations stood at 200,000. Biden’s administration is hoping to ramp up the number of vaccine doses given to states each week, from 11 million to 13.5 million.
Threatening Biden’s July goal, of course, is the fact that coronavirus cases are still relatively high, putting a strain on health-care systems and providing the coronavirus with more opportunity to mutate. There has been increasing worry in recent weeks about the emergence of highly contagious variants and how they could possibly erode some of the protection provided by vaccines.