En español | COVID-19 vaccines will become available at local pharmacies beginning in early February, the federal government will start up 100 vaccination centers across the country within a month and the pool of medical professionals available to deliver the shots will be expanded, under a series of executive orders President Biden signed Thursday.
Even as Biden said that “help is on the way,” the new president warned that the pandemic is going to get worse and that many more lives will be lost before it gets better.
“Unfortunately,” Biden said at a White House briefing, “the death toll will likely top 500,000 next month. It's going to take months for us to turn things around.” As of Thursday, more than 408,000 Americans have died as a result of the coronavirus.
The president also issued a challenge to the American people to wear a mask over the next 100 days to curb the spread of the virus. This is in addition to an executive order he signed on his first day in office requiring that masks be worn on interstate planes, trains and buses and in all federal building and other federal properties.
Wearing a mask is even more important than vaccines in getting the pandemic under control, because, Biden said, the vaccines take time to take effect. If Americans answer the mask challenge while the access to vaccines is ramped up, he added, “from now until April we'd save more than 50,000 lives going forward."
Under the national COVID strategy the White House issued Thursday and several of the 10 executive orders Biden signed, the federal government will:
- Activate the Defense Production Act to direct federal agencies and private industry to accelerate the manufacture of everything needed to provide adequate vaccinations and testing. This includes personal protective equipment, syringes and other supplies needed to vaccinate people, and equipment and supplies for testing.
- Use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up 100 mass vaccination centers across the country, including areas and communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
- Create, by the beginning of February, a federal pharmacy program to make vaccines available to local drug stores.
- Expand the pool of medical professionals who can administer the vaccine. This will include urging states to expand the number of health care workers eligible to administer vaccines, including waiving some licensing requirements. Under the legislative package Biden plans to deliver to Congress, the federal government would also fund 100,000 more public health workers to help administer the vaccine program and provide contact tracing