Dentists and midwives giving shots, 4,000 troops to help: How Biden is expanding COVID-19 vaccinations

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Michael Collins, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – Americans wanting a COVID-19 vaccination will now have many more ways to get the shot.

President Joe Biden’s administration is dramatically expanding the pool of medical professionals who can administer the vaccinations, is launching new tools for Americans to find the vaccine, and is increasing the number of places where they can get it.

The expansion will mean “no more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones,” Biden said Thursday in a prime-time address to the nation in which he announced the changes.

Biden is directing states to make all American adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

“That does not mean that everyone will get a shot immediately,” Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters Friday. “But May 1 is the date every adult will be eligible to sign up.”

Vaccinations: Biden directs states to make all adults eligible for COVID vaccines by May 1

President Joe Biden arrives to deliver an address to the nation on the anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver an address to the nation on the anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.

Here's what the Biden administration is doing to get more vaccines to Americans:

Dentists, midwives and med students can now give the shot

Biden is allowing more medical professionals to administer the shots.

The administration will expand the pool of qualified professionals who can give the shots to include dentists, some emergency medical technicians, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists and veterinarians, as well as medical students, nursing students and other health care students.

A new vaccination locator website

By May 1, as vaccines are available in more places, the administration will launch a website that will show Americans which locations near them have the vaccine. A call center with a 1-800 number will be set up to help anyone who doesn’t have access to the internet find a vaccine location.

“We need to make it easier for every American to get vaccinated,” Zients said. “Too often, it's too difficult, too time-consuming and too frustrating for people to identify where vaccines are available and where to schedule an appointment.”

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700 community centers to help distribute vaccines

Using sources available through Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package, the administration plans to ramp up efforts to create more places where Americans can get vaccinated, with the goal of reaching the hardest-hit and hardest-to-reach populations.

Over the next six weeks, vaccines will be delivered to an additional 700 community health centers that serve low-income and minority patients and provide services to rural communities. That will boost the number of participating community health centers across the country to 950.

"This is hugely important as we're talking about addressing access, vaccine hesitancy, meeting people where they are in communities," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "Because these health centers are trusted places in many communities where people go and they get regular health services."

Doubling the pharmacies giving the shot to 20,000

In addition, the number of pharmacies where the vaccine will be available will double, meaning it will be available at more than 20,000 pharmacies across the country. The administration is directing pharmacies to expand mobile operations into the hardest-hit communities to reach more people.

Federally operated vaccination centers to double

The number of federally operated vaccination centers also will more than double from the current 600. The centers are run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the military and other federal agencies in partnership with states. Many will serve as the home base for mobile units that will travel into local communities to provide vaccines for underserved populations.

4,000 troops to support vaccination

The administration also plans to deploy more than 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts, bringing the overall total to more than 6,000.

Roughly one-quarter of all Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccination, including 65% of Americans 65 or older, the population most vulnerable to the virus.

The nation's vaccine supply received a boost this week when the White House announced the purchase of an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. The additional doses, when added to the vaccines from other sources, is more than enough to inoculate every American.

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 vaccine: Joe Biden expands ways Americans can get shot