WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden directed states to make all adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, according to a White House memo released ahead of his first primetime address Thursday evening.
Biden’s COVID-19 advisers are projecting that enough Americans in priority groups will be able to access the vaccine by the end of April to allow for the lifting of restrictions on who can access the vaccine.
Alaska on Tuesday became the first state to open eligibility to anyone age 16 or older.
The announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic.
Earlier on Thursday, Biden signed into law a massive pandemic stimulus bill that includes $20 billion to boost vaccination efforts across the country.
He also announced Wednesday that his administration secured another 100 million of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, after helping to broker a deal in which Johnson & Johnson will team up with drugmaker Merck to produce doses faster.
More than 81 million vaccines have been administered since Biden took office in January. But state officials seeking to get those shots into arms have been hamstrung by too few doses, antiquated technology for coordinating appointments, and the challenge of securing enough manpower and other resources to meet the demand for vaccinations.
The administration has launched federally run vaccination sites across the country, and will more than double the number of federal mass vaccination centers. More than 4,000 active duty troops will deploy to support those vaccination efforts.
The Biden administration also will expand who is qualified to administer shots, adding dentists, advanced and intermediate emergency medical technicians, midwives, optometrists, paramedics, physician assistants, podiatrists, respiratory therapists, and veterinarians.
The Department of Health and Human Services will launch a new website for individuals to check if they are eligible to volunteer to administer shots.
Biden also will seek to make it easier for Americans to find a vaccination appointment, announcing plans to launch a federal website by May 1 that will show nearby locations that have vaccines, as well as a 1-800 number for those who lack internet access.
The administration also says it will deploy technology teams to states that need assistance in improving the websites they’re using to schedule vaccinations.