WASHINGTON — President Biden, confronting lagging vaccinations that threaten his promise of near normalcy by July 4, on Tuesday overhauled the strategy to battle the pandemic, shifting from mass vaccination sites to more local settings to target younger Americans and those hesitant to get a shot.
In a speech at the White House, Mr. Biden said he was launching a new phase in the fight against the coronavirus, with a goal of at least partly vaccinating 70 percent of adults by Independence Day and with a personal plea to all of the unvaccinated: “This is your choice. It’s life and death.”
After three months of battling supply shortages and distribution bottlenecks, the Biden administration is confronting a problem that the president said was inevitable: Many of those who were most eager to get vaccinated have already done so. Vaccination sites at stadiums once filled with carloads of people seeking shots are closing, and states that once clamored for more vaccines are finding that they cannot use all of the doses that the federal government wants to ship to them.
Yet the administration’s own health experts say tens of millions more Americans must be vaccinated before the infection rate is low enough to return to what many people consider ordinary life.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15 by early next week, as expected. The president said adolescents were important in the fight against the virus because while they are not as susceptible to severe disease, they can still get sick and infect others.
the United States may never reach herd immunity, the point at which the virus dies out because of a lack of hosts to transmit it. And the president suggested that the nation was still far from beating the pandemic.
While the vast majority of seniors have been vaccinated, “We’re still losing hundreds of Americans under 65 years of age every week,” Mr. Biden said. “And many more are getting seriously ill from long stretches at a time.” He warned that the nation would be vaccinating people into the fall.
Still, the president said, if 70 percent of the nation’s adults have received at least one shot of vaccine by July 4, “Americans will have taken a serious step toward a return to normal.”
To get there, Mr. Biden said, the government must shift the focus from mass vaccination sites to doctors’ offices, pharmacies and other local settings, and mount a far more concerted effort to reach those who are reluctant to get shots or simply figure it is too much trouble.
“We’re going to keep at it,” the president said, expressing optimism that “most people will be convinced by the fact that their failure to get the vaccine may cause other people to get sick and maybe die.”
As of Tuesday, more than 106 million people in the United States were fully vaccinated and more than 56 percent of adults — or almost 148 million people — had received at least one shot. That has contributed to a steep decline in infections, hospitalizations and deaths across all age groups, federal officials said.
But despite a flood of doses available, the pace of vaccination has fallen off considerably over the past two and a half weeks. Providers are now administering an average of about 2.19 million doses per day, about a 35 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.