Biden says unvaccinated ‘may end up paying the price’ as all 50 states report decline for first time

As rates decrease ahead of Fourth of July benchmark, president warns against ‘needless tragedy’ of climbing infections among unvaccinated Americans

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 17 May 2021 14:36 EDT
Joe Biden says those who refuse vaccine 'may end up paying the price'

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 have declined in all 50 states for the first time since of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden announced on Monday, as the White House prepares to send millions of vaccine doses outside the US within the next six weeks.

“There will be advances and setbacks” as more people are vaccinated in the US, Mr Biden said, acknowledging fluctuating rates of infections.

“But if the unvaccinated get vaccinated, they will protect themselves and other unvaccinated people around them. If they do not, states with low vaccination rates may ... see that progress reversed,” he said. “Only those who are not vaccinated will end up paying the price.”

He added: “Given that the vaccinations are free and convenient, it would be a tragedy – and a needless one – to see Covid cases among those who do not get vaccinated go up. We’re not done fighting this virus. We still have tens of millions to get vaccinated.”

More than 43 per cent of the US has received at least one dose of two-shot vaccines Pfizer and Moderna or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines. More than 37 per cent of the US is fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr Biden announced that the US will distribute 20m doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines overseas by the end of June, in addition to the previously announced global distribution of 60m AstraZeneca vaccines.

He said the distribution aims to reflect the nation’s “demonstration of our ingenuity and fundamental decency of the American people.”

Mr Biden reversed the US position on sharing vaccine patents with other countries, urging the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property provisions to speed up the manufacturing of vaccines in poor countries that have not accessed doses from pharmaceutical companies that have held effective monopolies on their production.

The announcement also follows updated CDC guidance for fully vaccinated Americans, which the government says do not need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor situations, as states begin to relax restrictions amid declining numbers of confirmed infections, hospitalisations and deaths from the coronavirus.

The landmark change in guidance was a surprise to epidemiologists and public health experts who have argued that voluntarily wearing face coverings function as an effective, unobtrusive measure to drastically reduce infection rates, and that removing the guidelines under an honour system could prompt unvaccinated people to stop wearing them altogether.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the move on Monday.

“There is going to be a determination about implementation and there are going to be populations and communities where they take a different approach to implementation, because a lot of it is going to be based on the level of vaccination, the level in each community,” she told reporters at the White House. “We certainly respect and value that, but it is still our view is that science is the North Star.”

National Nurses United, one of the nation’s largest health unions, has called on the CDC to revise its guidelines.

Mr Biden urged Americans to “be kind and respectful” to people who choose to continue to wear face coverings.

“Above all, let’s work together though to meet the target” of 70 per cent of adult Americans to get at least one vaccine dose by July 4, a goal-setting date Mr Biden has set as a nationwide beginning to the gradual return to normalcy from the public health crisis.

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