Biden announces new goal of vaccinating 160 million adults by July 4

President Joe Biden announced a new vaccine goal of fully vaccinating 160 million adults by July 4. Dr. Teresa Amato, chairwoman of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, joins CBSN's Tanya Rivero with more on the fight against coronavirus.

Video Transcript

TANYA RIVERO: Millions of more Americans could soon be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA is soon expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15. According to a federal health official, the decision could come early next week.

Pfizer says the shot had 100% efficacy in adolescents as young as 12 years old and with similar side effects to what occurred in young adults. This comes as President Biden announces new goals for vaccinating Americans against the virus. At the White House today, he set a new target of having 160 million US adults fully vaccinated and 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4.

CBS News' Skyler Henry reports on the president's new vaccination goals.

SKYLER HENRY: A federal health official tells CBS News the FDA plans to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 as early as next week.

JOE BIDEN: I want American parents to know that if that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately, immediately move to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants its OK.

SKYLER HENRY: Pfizer says clinical trials showed the vaccine was 100% effective in children that age and is well tolerated.

- The antibody response is actually higher than the antibody response we've observed in adults, young adults. And also there were no positive cases in the study group with the data that I've been able to obtain.

SKYLER HENRY: Pfizer and Moderna are now running clinical trials for kids six months old and older. At least 25 states have ordered less than their full allotment of vaccine doses because of lower demand for the shots. The White House told governors it will ramp up efforts to get more people vaccinated ahead of the 4th of July.

JOE BIDEN: Our goal by July 4 is to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated.

SKYLER HENRY: But the number of new coronavirus cases is dropping as well, prompting more states to lift all COVID restrictions.

RON DESANTIS: I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you're saying that, you really are saying you don't believe in the vaccines.

SKYLER HENRY: But health officials are still urging caution as the variants of the virus are now spreading among unvaccinated young adults. Skyler Henry, CBS News, the White House.

TANYA RIVERO: Joining me now is Dr. Teresa Amato, the chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forrest Hills. Dr. Amato, welcome. Great to have you with us. What's your reaction to the president's announcement to administer at least one vaccine shot to 70% of the US population by July 4? Does that seem like an achievable goal?

TERESA AMATO: So I think this president has set some lofty goals before, and we have met and succeeded those goals. So I'm all about trying to make sure we set our goals pretty high, because we really want to get as many vaccines into American arms as we possibly can. I do think it's a realistic goal.

The amount of vaccine we have is not an issue anymore at all. We have plenty of vaccine to give to-- to people. I think he mentioned a couple of things which we're seeing here in New York as well, decreasing the age that people can get vaccine, so going down to younger teenagers and down into 12 years old. That seems to be coming down the pike maybe in about a week, so that's kind of exciting.

I do agree that we've had some of our older adults who have had a lot of trouble getting to these large vaccination sites. So really getting these vaccines into the community sites, our local churches, our-- we're partnering with our pharmacies, so making it just very, very easy for anybody to come in and get a shot, including making walk-in appointments, which I think is vitally important, especially for older adults or people who may not have access to good Wi-Fi and internet.

And finally, I think when we talk about hesitancy, I think that's going to be the really hard-- the hard part of it, because there's so much that goes into vaccine hesitancy. And I think that as health care providers, we're really going to have to make it an individualistic type of program, because it's not just one-size-fits-all when it comes to vaccine hesitancy.

So really being mindful of people's cultural backgrounds, people's fear of just medicine in general, and really just answering people's questions, not being judgmental when people have hesitancy, but keeping an open mind and answering questions, sort of understanding their point of view and why they're nervous about it, and then trying to reassure or to make them more comfortable. What we have noticed is when people have hesitancy, they sometimes have a valid reason for having that concern. And so really as a doctor, our job is to make sure that they understand why these vaccines are safe.

TANYA RIVERO: Now as you mentioned, the president said he also wants to focus on getting the younger population vaccinated. The FDA is expected to approve Pfizer's vaccine for use in 12 to 15-year-olds soon. One, can this help us achieve herd immunity? And two, what do you know about this vaccine and adolescents?

TERESA AMATO: So I have, like, both professional and personal reasons for being interested in this vaccine for younger folks. I have six children. And so far, just my youngest is not vaccinated, because she is only 12 years old. I can just tell you personally, we had a situation where my son unfortunately got COVID and was around my cousin, who is a-- was in the army and had been-- served two-- two tours [INAUDIBLE] in Afghanistan and had some lung issues.

So when my son contracted COVID, he did quite well. He's a young 20-year-old. He did great. My cousin, unfortunately, ended up in the ICU out in California and was quite sick for a long time, thank God did well. But I think-- when I think about families and their hesitancy, I think when it hasn't hit home and you haven't seen a young person and then someone who's at more risk gets sick at one gathering, I think that's when you really start to understand that these vaccinations are very important, not just for our young folks, but to keep our folks that are at risk safe.

TANYA RIVERO: And what more can you tell us about the vaccination for young people, for the youngest people that it will soon be approved for 12-year-olds, for instance? Is it the same dose that goes to an adult? Is it adjusted slightly?

TERESA AMATO: So I think that's what they're really studying right now, what is the most safe and effective dose. It seems like the data is going to come out that for a child of 12 and over-- and older, probably the adult vaccine dose is probably going to be the dose that we're going to be giving this age range. I think when you go below 12, they're really going to have to start seeing whether or not where you have to give a lower dose. But that will come out when the FDA shares the data that they've collected.

And then we'll know what's a safe and effective dose. I do see-- I do think it's still going to be the two doses of the Pfizer or the two doses of Moderna. I believe they're doing Pfizer right now for the 12 to 15-year-olds. I don't believe Moderna's coming out yet. But I think that's going to be an exciting time. Again, with our kids getting back to school, we're really hoping by the fall we get a lot of these kids vaccinated so the teachers are safe and the kids are safe.

TANYA RIVERO: And will this help us reach herd immunity once we get sort of a large percentage of adolescents vaccinated as well?

TERESA AMATO: So herd immunity is based on a couple of things. So one, it is the number of people that are fully vaccinated and then the people that have gotten the immunity from actually catching COVID who have antibodies that are strong enough that they can fight any type of a second infection. So when you look at that, you're thinking somewhere around 70% of the country would either have to have the antibodies from the disease itself or the vaccine.

Yeah, if we don't start looking at our younger adults, our teenagers, and then down to children, we may not be able to get to that number. I am concerned that there are going to be some parents that will also have some hesitancy, and so we're going to have to be answering a lot of questions and reassuring people. But I think the key is to get all those older adults vaccinated, but also to start thinking about our younger adults and teenagers just to help keep the rest of the country safe.

TANYA RIVERO: And finally, what about global vaccination efforts? We heard the president address the incredible problems India and Brazil are having getting their arms around the coronavirus. How important is it that we help other countries with those vaccination efforts, on one level in a simply selfish way so that those variants don't work their way back here. I mean, obviously we want to help those people for humanitarian reasons as well. But does this also raise the risk that, you know, we can see a lot of those variants pop up again here in the US?

TERESA AMATO: So you make a great point. What we've seen time and time again is COVID is very discriminatory. It seems to target people at a lower socioeconomic class. It affects people of color. We've seen it now in countries that have less resources.

I mean, I look at the pictures from India and my heart absolutely breaks. It takes me right back to years-- a little bit over a year ago when we were the epicenter. And I remember those days of really wondering if we were going to run out of oxygen. And I was so incredibly blessed to work for an organization and be in a country where we were able to get oxygen for all of those patients.

And I think to myself if I was a doctor on those wards and the oxygen ran out and people died how horrible I would feel and how helpless I would feel. So I think it's incredibly important that we do give humanitary relief. We're a melting pot here in America, and a lot of folks here have family that are back there and are really suffering.

And so yes, from the altruistic point of view, we should be helping out with vaccines and equipment. And for a global relief effort, you're right, we're not going to get this past us until we all work together. And we know when we work together, we get more resources, and we can hopefully beat this down much better and much quicker if we work all together as one global response.

TANYA RIVERO: Absolutely. Well, Dr. Teresa Amato, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

TERESA AMATO: Thank you so much.