Before he was sworn in as president, Joe Biden pledged that his administration would administer 100 million coronavirus vaccines within his first 100 days in office.
With that goal achieved Friday, his 58th day in office, the president teased the possibility of hitting 200 million by the end of his first 100 days.
"We may be able to double it," Biden teased before leaving the White House to travel to Atlanta on Friday, which could be a possibility given the current pace of vaccinations in the U.S.
The country is currently averaging 2.5 million doses per day. If that pace is maintained, the U.S. would hit that goal with days to spare before Biden's 100th day in office.
On Thursday, the president touted the efforts his administration made to ramp up the pace of vaccinations across the country, like his decision to authorise the Defense Production Act in order to speed supply, and the brokerage of a “historic manufacturing partnership between competing companies” to rapidly ship out vaccine doses.
All of these steps, Biden said, will amount to the U.S. having “enough vaccine supply for every adult American by the end of May — months, months earlier than anyone expected.”
By the time Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, the U.S. had already administered 20 million shots at a rate of about 1 million doses per day, bringing complaints at the time that Biden’s goal was not ambitious enough. He previously revised it upward to 150 million doses in his first 100 days.
“When we took office, there was a lot that had to be done. We needed more vaccines, more vaccinators, more places for people to get vaccinated. And we needed a whole of government approach,” Biden said Thursday.
Now, the U.S. is injecting an average of about 2.2 million doses each day — and the pace of vaccination is likely to dramatically rise later this month in conjunction with an expected surge in supply of the vaccines.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injections of 96 million doses have been reported to the agency since Biden’s inauguration, but those reports lag the actual date of administration. Vaccination trend lines pointed to Biden breaking the 100 million mark on Thursday, with the numbers likely to be confirmed by the CDC over the weekend.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated the 50 millionth shot administered since their time in office on Feb. 25, a little over a month after the two were inaugurated. At the time, Biden promised to update the public on the government’s plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic each time an additional 50 million shots were administered.
Still, the president stressed the need for all Americans to get the shot when they are eligible, saying “getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do” to prevent the spread of the virus.
“These milestones are significant accomplishments, but we have much more to do,” Biden said, later adding: “This is a time for optimism, but it is not a time for relaxation.”
The U.S. also plans to send 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has yet not been approved in the U.S., to Mexico and Canada.
Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday that 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would go to Mexico and 1.5 million would be sent to Canada. He emphasized that because the AstraZeneca shot is not yet authorized in the U.S., “This loan will not reduce the supply of vaccine to Americans.”
Tens of millions of doses have been stockpiled in the U.S., waiting for emergency use authorization, and that has sparked an international outcry that lifesaving vaccine is being withheld when it could be used elsewhere. The White House said just 7 million of the AstraZeneca doses are ready for shipment.
the Biden administration has faced calls from allies across the globe to release the AstraZeneca shots for immediate use. Biden has also fielded direct requests from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to buy vaccines produced in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.