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Biden marks 300 million Covid-19 shots

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden marked 300 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in his first 150 days in office in remarks Friday, touting the milestone even as he is likely to miss his goal of getting 70 percent of Americans their fist Covid-19 vaccine shot by July 4.

Biden made a renewed call for people to get vaccinated amid the emergence of the so-called delta variant of the coronavirus, first identified in India, that now accounts for nearly 10 percent of new cases in the U.S. and is linked to more severe illness, particularly in young adults.

"People getting seriously ill and hospitalize due to Covid-19 are those who have not been fully vaccinated," Biden said. "The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they were a month ago, this is a serious concern especially because of what experts are calling the delta variant."

Biden said he didn't think the new variant would result in a return to lockdowns because of the number of people who have already been vaccinated, but warned that areas with low vaccination rates could get hit particularly hard.

The White House has increased efforts this month to boost demand for the vaccine in order to meet his July 4 goal, as the U.S. recently surpassed more than 600,000 dead from the virus.

Biden started June by touting free child care and the lure of a complimentary beer to try to persuade more Americans to get vaccinated. The White House has also been encouraging companies to offer incentives to their employees and customers who get vaccinated, expanding the hours and locations of vaccination centers, and increasing its public messaging campaign.

The effort appears to be producing some results — the U.S. has gone from administering an average of 937,000 daily doses on June 5 to 1.17 million doses this week. But Biden is still unlikely to meet his 70 percent goal, according to an analysis of data by NBC News.

At least 65 percent of adults have gotten at least one shot, up from the 56 percent when Biden announced the goal on May 4, according to White House data. Among those 65 and older, 87 percent have at least one shot and 74 percent of those 40 and over have gotten their first dose, the White House said.

Vaccination rates vary widely by state. While 15 states have vaccinated more than 70 percent of their populations with at least their first dose, others like Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have yet to hit the 50 percent mark.

Daily case counts nationwide have hit their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic, with new cases and deaths down by more than 90 percent since Biden took office, the White House said.

"On July Fourth, we're going to celebrate our independence from the virus," Biden said. "As we celebrate our independence of our nation we want everyone, everyone to be able to do that."

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