Biden, CORONAVIRUS, Government

Biden calls for all U.S. adults to be eligible for vaccine by May 1

Ansu Drammeh, R.N., a cardiovascular intensive care nurse at OHSU, is given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, December 16 by Ryan Thrower, D.M.D., who, according to OHSU, is the first dental resident in the United States to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

President Joe Biden announced during a primetime speech Thursday evening that he would direct states, tribes and territories to open vaccine eligibility to adults by May 1.

The news came in advance of the speech in a statement from the White House outlining Biden’s plan to get “the nation closer to normal by July 4th, Independence Day.”

The directive — if the state follows it — will likely force Oregon Governor Kate Brown to scrap the current schedule of eligibility in Oregon, which didn’t have eligibility for all adults scheduled until July 1.

A press conference is scheduled for Friday with Brown and health officials present.

The president announced a number of steps during his speech to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, aiming for a semblance of normalcy by Independence Day.

His plan calls for opening new clinics, adding pharmacies to the vaccination program, opening more federally-run vaccination centers, and expanding the eligibility of healthcare professionals to administer vaccines, including dentists, paramedics and EMTS, optometrists, medical students, therapists, veterinarians, and more.

In Oregon, many of those professionals are already permitted to administer vaccines.

Metro West Ambulance, the region’s primary ambulance service, has already administered about 7,000 vaccines, according to Jan Lee, Metro West’s public information officer.

The president also promised a national website to make it easier to find vaccination locations, and to provide technical support to states, such as Oregon, that are struggling to keep vaccine scheduling websites running.

The Centers for Disease Control will be tasked with providing clear guidance on what vaccinated individuals can and can’t do, and push states to further open schools.

Asked if the Oregon Health Authority was prepared to implement Biden’s plan, a spokesperson for the agency referred this newspaper’s question’s to a statement made on Twitter by Governor Brown.

“This is hopeful news for all Oregonians from [President Biden] tonight—that enough vaccine supplies may be secured to allow universal eligibility by May 1,” Brown said. “Oregon’s plan has always been to ramp up distribution when we see federal vaccine shipments increase. But while our timelines may change, my priorities for equitable vaccine distribution have not. We will continue to prioritize Oregon’s seniors, people with underlying health conditions, frontline workers, and those Oregonians most vulnerable to COVID-19 to make sure they are at the front of the line.”

The governor did not say if she would follow the president’s directive.

“I will not relent until we beat this virus,” Biden said during his speech. “But I need you, the American people. I need you. I need every American to do their part,” the president urged, asking all residents to get a vaccine when they are able.

The announcement is the second major development undertaken by the president on Thursday, having previously signed into law legislation approving a $1.9 trillion taxpayer-funded economic stimulus package the White House calls the American Rescue Plan.

It’s a bill with a financial breadth and scope rivaled only by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.  

The plan is designed to help American business owners, individuals and families, communities of color, local governments, and schools find footing following the economic devastation that began with the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020. 

Immediately, the plan provides a direct $1,400 gross payment — income tax will be owed — to individuals earring $75,000 or less annually. CNBC reports those funds will begin to register in many American’s bank accounts as soon as the weekend beginning March 12.

The legislation also continues a $300-per-week unemployment supplement for millions of Americans who continue to experience job displacement in the post-COVID-19 outbreak economy. 

President Biden’s goal of providing 100 million vaccines for Americans within his first 100 days in office receives a jolt in the arm from the American Rescue Plan, too, which provides $160 billion into COVID-19 vaccination purchasing, distribution, and testing.

The bill also allocates $350 million of support to counties and municipalities, and for tribal relief. Individuals, families, and businesses will receive $25 billion in rental and utility assistance.

Relief to those with school-aged children and for education professionals is on the way as elementary, middle, and senior high schools will receive $130 billion to assist with reopening safely. 

The Biden Administration says in the days and weeks ahead it will reach out to local elected officials and community leaders to educate them and their constituents of the benefits available to Americans via the American Rescue Plan. 

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