President BidenJoe BidenDeath toll from winter weather rises to at least 40: AP On The Money: House panel spars over GameStop, Robinhood | Manchin meets with advocates for wage | Yellen says go big, GOP says hold off Top political donor sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegal campaign contributions MORE on Friday toured a Pfizer manufacturing plant in Michigan, seeking to highlight efforts to mass produce a coronavirus vaccine as his administration looks for ways to increase supply and streamline distribution.
Biden visited a factory in Kalamazoo, where he met with lab workers and learned about the process behind creating one of the two COVID-19 vaccines that is being widely used across the country to inoculate Americans. It marked just the second time Biden had traveled outside the Washington, D.C., area since taking office.
“I came here because I want the American people to understand the extraordinary, extraordinary work that’s being done to undertake the most difficult operational challenges this nation has ever faced,” Biden said in prepared remarks.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company is delivering 5 million vaccine doses per week to the U.S., but is working to expand that capacity and expects to “more than double” it in the next “couple of weeks.”
The company is on track to deliver 120 million doses by the end of March, and 200 million doses by the end of May, Bourla said, two months faster than the original timeline.
Still, Biden pressed the company for any way to further speed up the timeline during the visit, according to Bourla.
“Mr. President, the challenge is accepted,” he said.
Biden touted that the country’s vaccination rate has increased to about 1.7 million shots a day, well above the pace for the president’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days, which some experts said was shooting too low.
“I’m confident we’ll exceed the number,” Biden said. “But that’s just the floor. We have to keep going.”
Biden used his speech to outline the need for his $1.9 trillion economic relief proposal to help struggling Americans get through economic hardships, as well as to encourage people to get the vaccine when it’s their turn to do so.
He also took a shot at former President TrumpDonald TrumpThune: Trump allies partaking in ‘cancel culture’ by punishing senators who voted to convict Biden administration open to restarting nuclear talks with Iran Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors MORE, referring to “my predecessor,” saying he “failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers.”
“That changed the moment we took office,” Biden said.
The president has faced multiple questions this week about when he expected the country to have enough shots to vaccinate all Americans, and when people might be able to return to pre-pandemic life.
Biden has repeatedly cautioned that while the country will likely have 600 million doses by the end of July, enough for everyone in the country excluding children who are ineligible for the vaccine, that is different from getting shots into people’s arms.
He has also been careful not to promise a concrete timeline for when the country will reach herd immunity and life will return to some semblance of normalcy.
“I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year, and God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last,” Biden said Friday. “But I can’t make that commitment to you. There are other strains of the virus. We’re doing everything the science has indicated we should do. And people are stepping up to get everything done that has to be done.”
White House officials said earlier Friday that winter storms have caused a backlog of 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, or about three days worth of shipments, affecting all 50 states, but they expect to clear the backlog within a week.