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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said he expects anyone who wants a coronavirus vaccination to be able to get one by the spring, and he upped his vaccination goal for his first 100 days in office.
Biden said Monday that he now believes the country can administer 1.5 million shots a day in the coming weeks and give 150 million vaccinations over the next 100 days, "with the grace of God."
In December, Biden set a goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, and at the time, no vaccine had been cleared for use. But with states ramping up their vaccination efforts in recent weeks, the country is already averaging Biden's goal of around 1 million shots a day.
Biden said that to reach his new goal, the government is going to have to set up more vaccination sites, hire more people to administer the shots and ensure that there are enough supplies of supplies like syringes. He is asking Congress for more than $400 billion to fund the effort.
"It is going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we've ever tried in this country, but I think we can do that," Biden said. He said that by summer, "we're going to be well on our way to heading toward herd immunity," including making the vaccine available for children.
Biden warned that it will still take time for the U.S. to defeat the virus — responding to criticism of his recent remarks that the trajectory of the virus won't be changed for months.
"It is going to take time. It is going to take a heck of a lot of time," Biden said, adding: "We are in this for a while."
Because the two approved vaccines require two doses, 150 million shots would provide protection for 75 million Americans — about 23 percent of the population. Public health officials, including those working with the Biden administration, have said more than 70 percent of the population would have to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
State officials have increasingly complained about a lack of supply of the vaccine and supplies like syringes. Officials have also complained about a lack of consistent information from the federal government about the number of doses they will get and when they will get them. Biden said he has been working with the vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, to produce more vaccine doses in a "relatively short period of time."
Biden's accelerated timeline is still less optimistic than the one touted by former President Donald Trump. The Trump administration's health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, said last month that the general public would be able to be vaccinated in their local pharmacies as soon as late February. Azar also pledged that 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of last year — a milestone the country reached only Sunday.