US President Joe Biden speaks on the production of the Covid-19 vaccine in the South Court Auditorium, next to the White House, in Washington, DC, on March 10, 2021.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden said he will announce the “next phase” of the U.S. Covid-19 response during his prime-time address to Americans on Thursday.
“Tomorrow night, I’m going on prime time to address the American people and talk about what we went through as a nation this past year. But more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next,” Biden said Wednesday from the White House after a meeting with executives from Johnson & Johnson and Merck.
“I’m going to launch the next phase of the Covid response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” he said. “There is light at the end of this dark tunnel over the past year. We cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable. Together, we’re going to get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier, more hopeful future.”
The president’s address will commemorate the one-year anniversary marking the first government-imposed shutdowns to try to curb the pandemic.
The Biden administration has been working to ramp up the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and get the majority of Americans immunized as quickly as possible. Roughly 62.4 million out of some 331 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 32.9 million are fully vaccinated, representing nearly 10% of the total adult U.S. population, according to the CDC.
Earlier Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that it plans to buy 100 million additional doses of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine. The deal would double the nation’s supply of the J&J vaccine, as the company already has a deal with the government to provide 100 million doses by the end of June. Merck is helping to make J&J’s Covid vaccine.
The administration also has deals with drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna for 600 million doses combined, enough to inoculate 300 million Americans since those two vaccines require two shots given three to four weeks apart.
“I’m doing this because in this wartime effort, we need maximum flexibility,” Biden said Wednesday on plans to purchase more J&J vaccine doses. “There’s always a chance that we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or there will be a new need for a vaccine effort … a lot can happen, a lot can change and we need to be prepared.”
Biden said if the U.S. has a surplus of vaccine doses, the administration is going to “share it with the rest of the world.”
“This is not something that can be stopped by a fence no matter how high you build a fence or a wall,” he said. “So we’re not going to ultimately be safe until the world is safe. So we’re going to start off making sure Americans are taken care of first, but we’re then going to try to help the rest of the world.”
The comments come weeks after Biden said the U.S. would seek to end cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., once the pandemic is over.
One of Biden’s sons, Beau Biden, died at age 46 from an aggressive form of brain cancer.