The White House announced Friday that the United States has hit a key milestone in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic: Fifty percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar announced the news on Twitter.
"50% of Americans (all ages) are now fully vaccinated," Shahpar wrote. "Keep going!"
It's worth noting that figure is inclusive of the full U.S. population, even though COVID-19 vaccines are currently only available to Americans 12 and up. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Thursday, 58.4% of eligible Americans have been fully vaccinated.
Earlier this week, the U.S. finally reached President Joe Biden's goal of 70% of adults with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly one month after the original July 4 deadline.
President Biden initially set the 70% goal in May after easily surpassing his original COVID vaccination benchmarks – 100 million shots in his first 100 days, which eventually became 200 million. But the White House acknowledged in late June that the U.S. would fall short of its goal.
The first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. was administered on Dec. 14, 2020.
Shahpar also noted that the 7-day average of newly vaccinated is up 11% from last week, and up 44% from two weeks ago.
"More than 3.2 million Americans have gotten newly vaccinated over the past seven days. And, importantly, as we've seen as a trend over the last few weeks, states with the highest case rates are seeing their vaccination rates grow the fastest," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday after the new numbers were released. "That's exactly what it's going to take to get us out of this pandemic: more Americans stepping up and doing their part to get vaccinated."
These milestones are positive signs amid rising COVID-19 cases nationwide, fueled largely by the highly contagious delta variant.
Health officials on Thursday praised the rising number of vaccinations, seeking to underscore progress the U.S is making in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Clearly, Americans are seeing the impact of being unvaccinated and unprotected, and they’re responding by doing their part, rolling up their sleeves and getting vaccinated,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.
“We’ve more than doubled the average number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks in the states with the highest case rates,” Zients added. “Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi are now vaccinating people at a pace not seen since April.”
Zients also cited progress in states like Tennessee, which reported a 90% increase in first shots over the past two weeks, and Georgia, which saw a 66% increase in shots during that same period.
But the news comes amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in parts of the U.S., driven largely by the delta variant.
The new U.S. cases are heavily concentrated in states with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country – Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Those seven states account for “roughly half of new U.S. cases and hospitalizations recorded in the past week, despite making up less than a quarter of the U.S. population combined,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said.
“Over the past seven days, patients in Florida and Texas have accounted for about one-third of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and more than one-third of new U.S. hospitalizations,” Zients said.
Some major companies have announced in the last few weeks that they'll require vaccinations for their employees in an effort to fight the variant, which is a move the White House supports, press secretary Psaki said Friday.
"Our message is simple, we support these vaccination requirements to protect workers communities and our country," she said.