On Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden announced some majorly great news in an official announcement. By the end of May 2021, the United States, alongside help from Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, and Moderna, will have manufactured enough vaccines for every single American over 18-years-old. The news — a whole two months ahead of schedule of the initial vaccine timeline — is a dramatic announcement and a clear example of under-promising while over-delivering.
Obviously, as with any major announcement, there are realities at play here that need to be taken into account. Just because every vaccine will be ready by the end of May, that doesn’t mean that every American adult will be vaccinated by then. But it does most likely mean that national immunity could be met much earlier than previously expected.
Biden also dropped in a tidbit about launching a federal program to get educators and child care workers vaccinated quickly, and as a priority — a key hurdle to getting teacher’s unions and teachers themselves onboard with opening schools for in-person instruction. So, here’s what you need to know about Biden’s most recent announcement, and what it really means for you and your kids.
Ok, so what’s the catch?
Yes, there is always a catch. Namely, just as alluded to above, the hurdles that have been cleared in the past few weeks have genuinely been great. These number: production timelines being cleared by Biden authorizing the Defense Production Act, Johnson & Johnson and Merck working together to produce more vaccines, of vaccine production, in general, ramping up, and of course, and the approval of a one-shot, easy-to-store COVID-19 vaccine. These are massive gains.
But the production of vaccines is just one (massive, and actively being solved) problem. Vaccines actually making their way into people’s arms is another problem altogether — and although, in some areas, vaccination rates are picking up and more people are becoming eligible for the vaccine, the going is still slow and inequitable, with 1.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses a day being administered on average (consider that half a vaccinated person.)
Since Monday, March 1, according to the CDC and The Wall Street Journal, just 50.7 million Americans had received at least one dose of the vaccine, or about 15.3 percent of the population. As the vaccine becomes more widely available, long lines, pressure points, a lack of vaccination sites, or dedicated vaccine workers, could all be a major problem in solving the pandemic. But… it will likely be solved. (Keep reading!)
Educators and child care workers will be prioritized.
Another major, if under-reported, aspect of Biden’s plan to get a vaccine produced for every single adult in the United States is a program that will get educators and child care workers at least a first vaccine dose by the end of March of 2021 (yes, this month!). While the CDC maintains that schools can be opened safely without teachers being vaccinated, teacher’s unions understandably have thrown their weight behind teachers being inoculated against the virus before reopening school doors.
This is a huge change — because states had been allowed to set their own vaccine schedule agendas — and Biden is basically saying he’s going to throw the power of the federal government behind the plan, ensuring that educators across the country all have equal access to the vaccine.
This is a genuinely huge step forward in making sure schools open — especially since The New York Times just published a report saying only 4 percent of students in the US live in areas that meet CDC-reopening guidelines.
So, when will other adults get vaccinated?
That depends — but don’t be too pessimistic. The previous estimate was that we’d have vaccines for every American by the end of July, now, with the timeline moved up two months, and the stimulus package on the way, people could be vaccinated sooner than they think.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package provides $20 billion in the way of creating community vaccination centers across the country and would send mobile units to rural or remote communities. The plan would also allow Medicaid patients to have their vaccine costs covered by the federal government and would allow the government to provide the vaccination for free to everyone, no matter their immigration status.
The plan would help states open up vaccination eligibility pools, establish more vaccination sites — creating 100 federally supported FEMA centers — and would utilize pharmacies to also administer vaccines. The DPA (which has already been authorized) will help boost vaccine manufacturing and supplies. The problems regarding getting shots into people’s arms, basically, could at least be partially solved.