By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
WASHINGTON — With the pace of U.S. coronavirus vaccinations relatively flat, President Biden will call on Tuesday for employers to set up clinics at work and to offer paid time off for workers as part of a renewed push to reach tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated, a White House official said.
Just two days after he hosted a big White House Fourth of July celebration and declared “America is coming back together,” Mr. Biden is turning his attention to a public health conundrum: Despite his administration’s aggressive push, he has not met his self-imposed goal of having 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated by now, and officials have already tried many techniques.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview the president’s remarks, the official said Mr. Biden would note a different metric: By the end of the week, nearly 160 million Americans, not quite half the population, will be fully vaccinated. With the worrisome Delta variant spreading quickly around the country, he is expected to say, that will not be enough to fully prevent new outbreaks in areas with lower vaccination rates. Although there is not yet good data on how all of the vaccines hold up against Delta, several widely used shots, including those made by Pfizer-BioNTech, are still effective against the Delta variant after two doses, research suggests.
But providers were administering about 1.09 million doses per day on average, as of Friday, about a 68 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13.
And beyond the issues with the vaccination campaign, declines in the virus itself appear to have stalled nationally. After a sharp drop in virus cases, the average number of new daily cases across the country seems to have leveled off and remains close to the lowest point since testing became widely available. Mr. Biden intends to underscore that overall progress in his remarks on Tuesday, but pockets of outbreaks remain. In some parts of Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, for instance, there has been a sharp rise in cases.
Mr. Biden will use his remarks to outline five areas of concentration for his administration, all avenues it has already pursued: targeted, community by community, door to door outreach to get the remaining Americans vaccinated; a fresh push to get vaccines to primary care doctors; a boost in efforts to get vaccines to pediatricians and other providers who serve younger people so that adolescents ages 12 to 18 can get their shots; expanded mobile clinic efforts and the workplace changes.
It is unclear what else the administration can do. Public health officials know that the last stretch of any vaccination campaign is the most arduous — a point Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, made in a recent interview.
“The last mile is always the hardest,” Dr. Fauci said, adding, “We’re actually on the last quarter mile.”
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