WASHINGTON—The Biden administration said it would begin reallocating some Covid-19 vaccine doses to states with higher demand for shots and direct pharmacies to offer walk-in vaccinations, as the president aims to get 70% of the adult population at least one dose by July 4.
said Tuesday he also wants 160 million U.S. adults to have the full course of the vaccine by that point, which he said would mean administering about 100 million shots over the next 60 days. The U.S. administered about 220 million shots in Mr. Biden’s first 100 days, but the pace of vaccinations has fallen in recent weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 56% of U.S. adults had received at least one dose as of Monday, according to the CDC.
The new goals are part of the next phase of the Biden administration’s vaccination campaign, which will focus on addressing vaccine hesitancy and eliminating barriers that make it difficult for some Americans to access the shots, such as not knowing where to get the vaccine or difficulty signing up for appointments. The administration is also preparing to distribute shots to adolescents. The shift in policy regarding states’ allocations is intended to account for the fact that demand is higher in some states than others.
Mr. Biden on Tuesday urged Americans to get vaccinated, and he said the administration’s push was going to be more tailored: “It’s going to get more granular rather than large.”
He said he thought that “most people will be convinced by the fact that their failure to get a vaccine may cause other people to get sick and maybe die.”
Officials said that Mr. Biden’s new goal was informed by infectious disease experts who believe a 70% vaccination rate would lead to a sharp decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. A senior administration official said that isn’t the same as herd immunity—the stage when enough Americans would be protected from the virus that it can no longer spread through the community easily—which the official described as an elusive number.
The administration said Mr. Biden was ordering the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with pop-up vaccination clinics and mobile units, in addition to directing pharmacies in the federal vaccination program to offer walk-in shots. CVS Health Corp. and Walmart Inc. on Tuesday said that they will allow walk-ins at all locations. CVS, along with several other retail pharmacies, had recently begun offering same-day appointments and several chains already allowed walk-ins on a limited basis.
Officials informed states of the new policy for allocating doses on a call with governors Tuesday morning.
Many states are seeing vaccine appointments go unclaimed. Arkansas, Mississippi and dozens of counties in Iowa recently cut back on vaccination orders because of drops in demand. Iowa declined 75,280 of 105,300 doses offered to its counties for the week of May 10, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Public Health said.
Jennifer Fulcher, director of immunization at Mississippi’s Department of Health, said the state didn’t order its full allotment of first doses for the current week.
She said private providers have ordered 1,000 vaccine doses since the state received the last allotment, and none have been ordered for the state health department’s drive-through vaccination sites.
Meanwhile, other states have asked for more doses.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
called on the Biden administration last month to send additional doses to the state amid a rise in cases there. At the time, the administration didn’t grant the request for additional doses.
Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for Ms. Whitmer, praised the Biden administration’s new vaccine reallocation decision. He said Michigan “continues to draw down every vaccine that we need to meet the needs of Michiganders, and we are grateful for the Biden administration’s actions to increase the availability of vaccines.”
The federal government distributes vaccine doses to states based on population on a weekly basis. Previously, doses that went unordered by states were carried over to the state’s allocation for the following week. Under the new plan, those doses could be distributed to other states that request additional shots. Unordered doses will be put into a pool that other states can take advantage of, according to administration officials. States that need more doses can order up to 50% beyond their weekly allocation, a person with knowledge of Tuesday’s call with governors said.
Administration officials said it is up to individual states to decide whether they want to forfeit their doses and offer them up to other states. States’ allocations won’t be reduced in the future if they don’t order all of their allocated doses on any given week.
Pharmacies participating in the federal vaccination program will also see a change in their supply allocation, a White House official said. Previously, they received 80% of their supply based on the state’s population and 20% based on demand. Now up to 49% will be based on addressing the area’s demand for vaccine doses.
CVS Chief Executive Karen Lynch said that despite declining demand, shots remain hard to come by in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, a swath of the population is willing to be vaccinated, she said, but only if the process is incredibly convenient. Anything that helps shift doses to places with more willing takers will help the overall vaccine efforts, she said.
The U.S. has administered more than 246.8 million vaccine doses, according to federal data analyzed by The Wall Street Journal. About 79% of doses distributed in the U.S. have been administered. But the pace of the daily vaccine doses administered has been declining since mid-April, according to the CDC.
States are now grappling with vaccinating citizens who live in rural areas and those who are hesitant to receive the shot. Officials said Tuesday they would use funding from the Covid-19 relief package Mr. Biden signed into law earlier this year to boost vaccine education and accessibility in rural communities.
Mr. Biden also thanked Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for encouraging Americans to get vaccinated and stressed that two of the vaccines were approved for emergency use under the Trump administration. “While we may not always agree on everything,” Mr. Biden said, “this is one thing people across the political spectrum can agree on.”
During the call, governors also pressed the Biden administration about the potential authorization of
vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old.
Senior administration officials said they are planning on making Pfizer vaccine doses quickly available to adolescents if the company receives emergency authorization from the FDA. Half of the pharmacies in the federal program, or more than 15,000 sites, will be ready to vaccinate children between the ages of 12 and 15 and the administration will ship doses directly to pediatricians and family doctors.
—Sharon Terlep, Jon Kamp and Melanie Grayce West contributed to this article.
Write to Tarini Parti at Tarini.Parti@wsj.com
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