WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden hailed the 300 million COVID-19 vaccine shots administered in the U.S. so far, but encouraged more Americans to get vaccinated in a speech Friday afternoon.
His goal to have 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4 is getting closer, but the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped below 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.
To date 65% of the adult U.S. population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 142.5 million adults are fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Some states have exceeded 70%, such as New Jersey – which cleared that bar two weeks earlier than it hoped.
“And by the way, we are not close to stopping,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said.
New York celebrated hitting 70% with fireworks Tuesday night, though parts of Brooklyn and Queens have less than one-third of people vaccinated.
Entire states are still hovering below 35%, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Dr. Cedric Dark, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said the drive to get people vaccinated revealed a “stunning lack of respect for the scientific community” among the public.
The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest, but it is increasingly resigned to missing the president’s vaccination target. The administration has insisted that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.
Still, some experts, like University of California San Francisco infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi, are optimistic natural immunity from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 will work in tandem with vaccinated Americans to keep COVID-19’s trajectory under control.
Biden reiterated his belief that this summer will look more like 2019 than 2020, but warned that the delta variant, first seen in India, could be more deadly and contagious to the unvaccinated.
“The truth is deaths and hospitalizations are drastically down in places where people are getting vaccinated,” Biden said. He added the numbers are more flat than down in areas where fewer people are vaccinated.
Doctors echo the president’s claims.
“The only people I think I and many of my colleagues are seeing in our ICUs in our hospitals, who are very sick with COVID-19 now, are the people who didn’t get vaccinated,” Dr. Lakshman Swamy, an intensive care unit physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance, said.
This comes as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 600,000 on Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The number of lives lost is about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019.
Worldwide, the COVID-19 death toll stands at about 3.8 million confirmed deaths.