Biden’s new Covid vaccine push focuses on workers, students, doctor’s offices to stifle delta variant

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the administration’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response and the vaccination program during brief remarks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, June 18, 2021.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Tuesday once again pushed for all eligible Americans to get Covid vaccinations, stressing the importance of being protected against the highly transmissible delta variant.

Despite the U.S. being on track to hit 160 million people fully vaccinated in the coming days, Biden said, millions remain unvaccinated against Covid, “and because of that, their communities are at risk, their friends are at risk, the people they care about are at risk.”

“This is an even bigger concern because of the delta variant,” the president said.

“It seems to me, this should cause everybody to think twice,” Biden said. But “the good news is that our vaccinations are highly effective,” including against the delta variant, he added.

Biden detailed his administration’s latest push to increase vaccination rates two days after failing to reach his Covid vaccination goal for the Fourth of July.

His team is now training its focus on boosting vaccination availability in places such as doctor’s offices and work settings. They are also ramping up efforts to get vaccines to pediatricians and other child health-care providers, Biden said, with the goal of getting more adolescents ages 12 to 18 inoculated before they head back to school in the fall.

The team also aims to expand mobile clinic efforts and will work to refine door-to-door outreach efforts to get information about vaccines to Americans who have yet to get their shots, the president said.

“Our focus now is on doubling down on our efforts” to get more people vaccinated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing earlier Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s still more work to be done,” Psaki said, before noting that “the vast, vast majority of people are safe from the virus” once they are vaccinated.

“If you are not vaccinated, you are not. That is also a message that we’re going to continue to clearly communicate,” she said.

Biden in his speech at the White House highlighted that nearly 160 million people in the U.S. will be fully vaccinated by the end of this week.

There are currently 157 million people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated, which is less than half of the total population, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Among people in the U.S. ages 18 and up, the CDC’s percentage for those fully vaccinated rises to 58.2%, and it stands at 78.7% among those ages 65 or older, who face the greatest risk from Covid.

Biden in May had set the goal of having 70% of American adults vaccinated with at least one shot by Independence Day. On the holiday itself, roughly 67% of U.S. adults had received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

“The bottom line is, the virus is on the run and America’s coming back, coming back together,” Biden said. It’s “one of the greatest achievements in American history,” he said, “but our fight against the virus is not over.”

The delta variant, which was first observed in India, has now spread to at least 96 countries, including the U.S., according to the World Health Organization.

The variant, which the WHO says is about 55% more transmissible than another strain of the virus found in the United Kingdom, has threatened to derail some countries’ plans to lift social-distancing restrictions. About 25% of all new reported U.S. Covid cases are of the delta variant, according to the CDC, which predicts it will become the dominant variant.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci last month called delta the “greatest threat” to the nation’s fight against the pandemic.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC last week that while the delta variant may cause an increase in cases, he doesn’t expect a massive surge in infections on the scale of those seen at earlier points in the pandemic.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a raging epidemic across the country like we saw last winter. I think that there’s going to be pockets of spread, and prevalence overall is going to pick up,” Gottlieb said on “Squawk Box.” 

The White House is deploying Covid-19 response teams across the nation focused on combatting the variant. The teams, composed of officials from the CDC and other federal agencies, will work with communities at higher risk of experiencing outbreaks.

There are still about 1,000 counties in the U.S. that have vaccination coverage of less than 30%, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters last week.

The counties are mostly located in the Southeast and Midwest and the agency is already seeing increasing rates of disease in these places due to further spread of the delta variant, she said.

— CNBC’s Ylan Mui contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel.”

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