March 12 (UPI) — President Joe Biden said he will direct every U.S. state and territory to make all adults eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1 in his first primetime speech Thursday night.
Addressing the nation on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the novel coronavirus a pandemic, Biden announced the plan to assure that all Americans will be able to sign up to receive a vaccination against the virus that has infected more than 29 million Americans and killed more than 530,600 in a year.
“Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean everyone is going to have that shot immediately but it means you’re going to be able to get in line beginning May 1,” he said.
Biden said the United States would also double its plan to administer 1 million vaccine shots each day to 2 million.
The announcement came after Biden on Wednesday announced plans to acquire 100 million more doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Biden added that on May 1, his administration would also seek to provide further guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for what fully vaccinated people can and cannot do, including additional guidance on the workplace, places of worship and travel.
Additionally, Biden said the signing of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier Thursday that his administration is on track to meet its goal to reopen most K-8 schools before the end of his 100 days in office.
“I will do everything in my power, I will not relent until we beat this virus, but I need you. I need the American people. I need every American to do their part. I need you to get vaccinated when it’s your turn and when you can find an opportunity and to help your family and your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated as well,” he said.
Biden added that if all Americans do their part, there is “a good chance” that people will be able to hold small gatherings, such as cookouts, to celebrate the July 4 holiday.
“After this long, hard year that will make this Independence Day something truly special were we mark not only our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus,” he said.
While Biden said it was his goal to allow Americans to celebrate July 4 together, he stressed that did not mean large events could be held and that people must remain vigilant.
Biden urged Americans to continue to listen to health experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, while warning that things may get worse as new variants of the virus emerge and suggested restrictions may have to be reinstated in the future.
“We need everyone to get vaccinated, we need everyone to keep washing their hands, stay socially distanced and keep wearing masks as recommended by the CDC,” he said. “Because even if we devote every resource we have, beating this virus and returning back to normal depends on national unity.”
Earlier in the speech, Biden addressed the division that has come about due to the pandemic, including states clashing over mask orders and condemned “violent hate crimes against Asian Americans.”
“At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, are on the front lines of this and still, they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down the streets in America,” he said. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop.”
Biden added that the year of isolation from loved ones, economic loss, sacrifices of healthcare workers and setbacks in students’ education has enacted “a terrible cost on the psyche of so many of us” but offered a message of optimism and perseverance.
“In the loss, we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect and gratitude,” he said. “Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do.”
A Pew Research poll released Thursday found that 65% of Americans believe Biden can handle the public health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with 33% saying they were “somewhat” confident and 32% saying they were “very” confident in his ability. Conversely, 19% said they were “not at all” confident and 16% said they were “not too” confident.
The poll also found that 56% of Americans expressed confidence in Biden to make good decisions around economic policy as the nation seeks to recover from the impacts of the virus, while 44% were not confident.
Previous surveys also found that 56% of Americans viewed his early actions to respond to the pandemic positively and 70% of Americans approved of the COVID-19 aid package.