US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that the country still wasn’t ready to begin exporting vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, although China has vaccinated a comparable number of people and exported nearly as many vaccines at the same time.
During a Wednesday address from the White House, Biden revealed that half of the US adult population has received at least one dose of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, but cautioned that the initiative must be completed by the whole population or their efforts will eventually be reversed.
“Today, we did it. Today, we hit 200 million shots on the 92nd day in office,” Biden said, adding that it was “a goal unmatched in the world or in prior mass-vaccination efforts in American history.” This adds up to more than 50% of US adults and 80% of Americans over the age 65, which he noted had sharply curtailed deaths among the elderly.
As a result, Biden said, the US was entering “a new phase of the vaccination effort,” expanding vaccine eligibility to every American 16 years old or older, as of Monday. Vaccination sites are also massively expanding to include more than 40,000 pharmacies.
Biden also called on all employers “large and small” to give employees time off with pay to both get vaccinated and recover from the side-effects of the vaccination, to further spur people to get their shots. “No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated,” he said, noting some employers had already taken the initiative and that the Internal Revenue Service would provide a method for employers to be compensated for the cost.
Biden added that the US was “not yet” ready to begin exporting vaccines.
“We’re looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using,” he told reporters. “We hope to be able to be of some help and value to some countries around the world,” including Canada and in Central America. “We don’t have enough to be confident to give it – to send it abroad now, but I expect we’re going to be able to do that.”