President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will direct states to make all adults 18 and older eligible for coronavirus vaccinations by May 1.
In his first primetime address to the nation, which came on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic, Biden outlined ambitious measures to expand the vaccine rollout started by the Trump administration and said he’s hopeful that America can “mark our independence from this virus” by the Fourth of July.
In addition to mandating that all states lift eligibility restrictions by the beginning of May, Biden said the federal government will debut a national vaccine finder website on May 1 to guide people to nearby sites that offer vaccinations. By that same date, the administration also plans to launch a call center with a 1-800 number to assist folks who may not have internet access. It’s rolling out additional IT support to states struggling with high traffic volumes as residents flock to their state-run websites to book vaccination appointments.
As of Friday, dentists, veterinarians, paramedics, and other health professionals will be qualified to administer vaccine shots, the president said. And the Department of Health and Human Services is working on a website for anyone interested in volunteering to give out shots to help determine their eligibility.
The White House plans to double the number of pharmacies participating in the federal mass vaccination program, thus making the vaccine available at more than 20,000 pharmacies nationwide. It’s also more than doubling the number of federally run mass vaccination centers and deploying 4,000 more active duty troops to assist in vaccination efforts, according to the president.
“If we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said Thursday. But he hedged that hopeful prediction with a warning that any return to normal this summer could still carry requirements for people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The speech came just hours after Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals making up to $75,000 a year. The bill also extends jobless benefits through Labor Day and raises them by $300 a week among other financial relief measures.