Is Biden's Independence Day Vaccination Goal Achievable?

[ Posted Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 – 16:34 UTC ]

[CORRECTION: I wrote this entire article using the wrong metric. I didn't fact-check it closely enough, even before I sat down to write it. President Joe Biden called today for 70 percent of adults to be vaccinated by July 4th, and not (as the article states) 70 percent of all Americans. To correct this would have meant rewriting almost the entire article, so I am not even going to attempt this. Most of the points made here are still valid, especially the one about listening closely to what is being measured in any statistic you hear cited. Basically, I should have followed my own advice. I apologize for the error. Mea culpa.]


President Joe Biden announced a new goal for his administration today: getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated at least once before the Fourth of July. That's a pretty high number, even though we've got two whole months to go. But it is an interesting one to pick, since it is the low end of the estimate for what the country will need to achieve "herd immunity" (others put the number higher, as high as 80 or even 85 percent). So it is without doubt a worthy and admirable goal to shoot for.

But I've noticed something about the way these numbers are reported in the media and even from the scientists and medical experts -- different people are using different yardsticks, which can lead to some confusion in the public. So you've really got to be sure you're comparing apples to apples when you hear one number or another reported on the news. There are many ways to measure the success of the vaccination program. But for various reasons, some report things differently. So whenever you hear a number quoted on the news or by a medical expert, pay close attention to what the quoted percentage is actually referring to ("all Americans," or "those eligible," or "adults").

The number everyone should be focusing on is the number Biden is shooting for in his new goal -- the percent of all Americans who have been vaccinated. This number currently stands at 147.9 million, out of a total population of 332 million. This works out to 44.5 percent. We are approaching the halfway point, but we've still got a ways to go to even get there.

Even this number can be parsed further, though. Only 106.2 million people have been fully vaccinated, or 32.0 percent of the total population. Meaning 41.7 million people have gotten their first shot, but not their second. This is the most important percentage of them all, since we won't get to herd immunity until 70 percent are fully vaccinated, and we're not even halfway there yet.

There are two other ways to measure the relative success of the vaccination program, both of which result in higher percentages since they start with a smaller total. You can measure how many adults have been vaccinated, or how many eligible people have been vaccinated. Adults measures those age 18 and older. Eligible measures those who are 16 and older. Currently, only 267 million people are eligible, and 55.4 percent of them have been vaccinated at least once. That sounds better than 44.5 percent, but it represents the same actual number of people who have gotten a shot.

Watching the overall number (measuring using total population, in other words) is a lot easier to do and a lot more accurate, since this is the metric that Biden is using when he set his 70 percent goal. Biden wants 70 percent of all Americans to get at least one shot by Independence Day, meaning he's still got to get 25.5 percent more of us to get their shots. This number also will not change as more people become eligible, so the metric won't bounce around in any way.

There will be a surge in vaccinations in the next few weeks, as Pfizer gets emergency authorization to vaccinate 12-to-15 year old children. Their trials are done, it appears safe for all teens, and approval is likely to come early next week. This is going to set off a wave of parents making appointments for their children. So this should boost the total rate of vaccination over the 50 percent mark in the next few weeks.

With another group becoming eligible, the total eligible population number will go up. This will, at the start, cause the eligible percentage number to go down, though, which will be a little confusing. Once kids do start to get their shots, the number will continue back upwards again. The adult numbers won't change, since none of the newly-eligible will be adults -- meaning that total will remain the same.

Biden's target is to get at least 232.4 million people vaccinated at least once by Independence Day. This means getting an additional 84.5 million people at least their first shot, since we're currently at 147.9 million. That's a lot of people to get to, in two months. It is possible, but only if the dropoff rate slows.

For over the past two weeks, fewer and fewer people are getting vaccinated each day. From the start, back in December, there was more demand than supply -- more people wanted to get vaccinated than there were shots to go around. When Biden was sworn into office on January 20, around a million shots were being given each day. Biden supercharged this effort, and by April 13, this number peaked at an average of 3.38 million shots per day. However, since then the graph line has turned sharply downward -- there is now more supply than demand, in other words. This figure now stands at only 2.29 million doses per day being given out, on average. And this is the number of total shots given, which includes second doses for many, so it is not the same as "people getting newly vaccinated." To achieve Biden's goal, we're going to have to average (roughly) at least 1.5 million people per day -- getting their first shot -- over the next two months. We're only going to be able to achieve that if that steep dropoff in demand is halted, or even reversed.

Again, though, hopefully we'll see a wave of new demand, as the 12-15 population rushes to get vaccinated. This may push the daily averages higher and turn around the downward trend, at least for the next few weeks or so. That would certainly help. Unfortunately, the trials for anyone younger than 12 are still ongoing and for them even emergency approval is likely not going to happen by the Fourth of July. So no matter what there will be a percentage of the population who will not even have the option of getting a shot by then. Much like the wave in the next few weeks, though, this could help the country out at the end of the process, because there will be an even bigger wave when everyone up to the age of 11 years old becomes eligible. That could be the deciding factor in achieving true herd immunity, at the end of the process.

We're still a long way from that point, however. Biden's goal is realistic because he was careful to set it only for people getting their first shots. So far, a certain percentage of those who have gotten one shot have just not shown up for their second dose (for whatever reason). Herd immunity really needs that crucial percentage (70-85 percent) to be fully vaccinated. And we currently stand at only 32 percent. So while Biden's 70 percent goal seems possible, it is not the same as herd immunity -- that number is going to lag behind even if we do achieve his goal.

Will one-fourth (25.5 percent) of the American population make the effort to get at least their first shot over the next two months? That's what Biden's goal is going to take -- another 84.5 million people getting their first "Fauci ouchie." It does seem possible, but in no way guaranteed. In terms of those 16 and older, they've been eligible for weeks now and yet there is a large portion of the public who is either still skeptical, completely against getting vaccinated, or just very hard to reach. Biden's team has already begun reaching out to the skeptical, and this seems to be paying off, albeit slowly. More people are getting convinced, but it takes a lot of effort to reach out to them and assuage their concerns. Biden is also moving to make vaccines much more accessible, by pushing all of America's pharmacies to give out shots to anyone who walks in and wants one. Mobile vaccination efforts (vans and other ways of reaching people close to where they live) are ramping up to get to the hard-to-reach populations too, both in dense cities and in widely-spread rural areas. Vaccinations might be directed to doctors' offices as well, so that anyone who comes in for any medical reason is immediately offered a vaccine -- an effort that will indeed pay off in a big way, because a lot of the still-skeptical people trust their own doctor much more than some expert they see on television. All of these efforts will pay off over time, but it will also be slow and much more labor-intensive than giant drive-in vaccination sites.

Whether Biden achieves his goal or not is going to depend on these efforts to make vaccinations easy to find, hassle-free to get, and popular. Together with the small wave of 12-15 year olds about to become eligible, this could indeed get America to 70 percent before the fireworks fly. It still won't be herd immunity even at that point, but it will be a giant step in the right direction. So far, Biden has indeed achieved all his goals in the vaccination program, so here's hoping he reaches this one, too.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


17 Comments on “Is Biden's Independence Day Vaccination Goal Achievable?”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Well, folks, I really blew this one...

    [CORRECTION: I wrote this entire article using the wrong metric. I didn't fact-check it closely enough, even before I sat down to write it. President Joe Biden called today for 70 percent of adults to be vaccinated by July 4th, and not (as the article states) 70 percent of all Americans. To correct this would have meant rewriting almost the entire article, so I am not even going to attempt this. Most of the points made here are still valid, especially the one about listening closely to what is being measured in any statistic you hear cited. Basically, I should have followed my own advice. I apologize for the error. Mea culpa.]

    My apologies...


  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No worries at all, Chris. It happens to all of us, sometimes. Of course, it happens to Biden ALL THE TIME. Ahem. But, I'm getting used to it. :-)

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:


    No problem...

    The “70% vaccination = herd immunity” is a generalization not a hard fact. The gist of your article holds up...with proper leadership at the top the pandemic is being controlled well enough that our medical system and economy can handle the stress. Would this be the case if you-know-who was still shambling about as President?

    It is interesting that there is no flu season this year. This is pretty good evidence that old school social distancing is fairly effective....even when 40% of the population is drinking the misinformation kool aid.....while self selecting to produce a more intelligent population. We salute you, our gullible Trumpians - the B Ark is to your right.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    Great writeup, CW. No worries and no apologies; we knew what you meant. The answer to your question is contained in the current data, and do I have data for you?


    Is Biden's Independence Day Vaccination Goal Achievable?

    Answering your question with questions, as I am wont to do:

    * Is the White House getting a new shemale kitty?

    * Why would Biden (seasoned politician) set a goal he believed was unachievable?

    He's much too intelligent for that, and so is Ron Klain.

    The data show that approximately 56% of adults have already been administered at least one dose. In order to reach Biden's 70% goal, another 36 million Americans aged 18 and older must be vaccinated in the next two months before Independence Day, or I should say July 4 since as you are well aware, our actual independence should be celebrated on July 2, but I digress.

    Being that 105 million people are at the present time fully vaccinated and another 40 million are already halfway there, the goal will be attained by vaccinating adults at approximately 75% of the pace they are currently being administered.

    Yes, sir; that is most surely attainable, and -- all things being on average 3/4 equal, July 4 is going to be lit.

    Get your popcorn ready. :)

  5. [5] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    CW...This is all fine and dandy, beer and skittles, tickety-boo and yepper-pepper, but what are you guys going to do next year and the year after...?

    The new normal is going to be, feck the flu jab, gimme my cv23.2.0 and I'm dust man, in the wind big wheel. The Herculean effort to get Americans to come out from under the table and get a simple jab is like having a cap done. We have all those stats, and Thestig has it exactly right, herd immunity is theoretical at best, or as my Doctor says, herd immunity is really what we as a society are prepared to lose every year to seasonal infection, here we average just under 4k a year lost to flu, double that and apparently we as Canucks are going to be fine with 4k due to flu and 4k due to cv's. For you guys 12k-60k per anum x3 let's call it 100k to be safely over. Now, because we have always vaccinated here, we don't have the same troubles, we can't even get our kids into JK without the Rubella and smallpox shots proven at registration. However, in the US, where people think inoculations are the devil's work, getting 70-75% of the heathen bunch to get jabs every year sounds more like herding cats. I can see the US hitting its stride at about 70% this one time, after that, fuck knows which way it'll go maybe people find their inner spine and it gets easier, but I get the good ole boys and the rural rubes, keeping folk who think their rights are shrinking to mask up and hammer down year after year forget it... it ain't gonna scan with a lot of people, mostly rightwing-nuts whose culling won't really matter this way or that.. The video of hospitals in Mumbai and the spent corpses awaiting immolation and visions of sons and daughters trying to resuscitate a parent while begging for a doctor...those scenes might be more common and closer to home.

    My Doctor figures we may need up to five years of annual flu and cv jabs before we can say cv19-20-21-22-23-24 is behind us. Even I'm gobsmacked at the prospect and I've had the last 15 flu shots... I've had my first cv19 shot, haven't a clue what it was, I asked my guy to surprise me, which he did when I got an email the same day with my second shot booked for 5 weeks yonder. I'm guessing Liz has pretty much the same timeline as I except that I live in a mid-sized city that has defied the cv19 numbers from the beginning and I know the roll-out here is going hammer and tongs to the point where my teenagers will prolly see their jabs before Canada day, the timing is sweet me-lad-o starts high school in Sept.

    By all accounts, looks like a better summer north and south than last year, the pot plants are ready for the sun, eight in all, 2x Green Crack, 2x Durban Death, 2x Silver Floozie, and 2 of the Bubble gum.

    Stoner me, been gibbering, like the post not checking just ent.


  6. [6] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    lol, I just had to share this. A pure gold nugget of awesomely awesomeness

    Every former US president is spinning in their grave...


  7. [7] 
    Kick wrote:

    James T Canuck

    So then... the world now views the United States as the biggest threat to democracy. Surprise (not) surprise.

    Who could have ever envisioned that the biggest threat to America would be coming not from without but from within from an insatiably greedy pathological con artist and modern-day Benedict Arnold style traitorous turncoat?

    Anybody paying attention to history.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    James T Canuck

    I am convinced my computer is haunted since it keeps posting on its own before I finish my comments!

    Every former US president is spinning in their grave...

    With the notable exception of five:

    * 3 Democrats
    * 1 Republican
    * 1 Insurrectionist Inciting Pathologically Lying Turncoat

  9. [9] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    How about 'ALL (dead) former US presidents are spinning in their graves', OR, 'Every (dead) US president is spinning in HIS grave'.

    Or, maybe best of all, 'All (dead) former US high-school English teachers are spinning in their graves'.

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    it's been a very long time since "they/their/theirs" was considered incorrect for use as a singular, non-gendered pronoun.


  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    Perhaps depends who's doing the considering.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Consider this: Plural pronouns replacing singular has been a trend in multiple languages for hundreds of years. Perhaps thou hast heard of it.

  13. [13] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    No actually, I've not heard of that, and I question the validity of it. 'I' seems to be replacing 'me' (as in "between you and I"), but that doesn't make it legit.

  14. [14] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Every former US president is spinning in their grave...

    explained...because you grant your presidents the right to be referred to as Mr. President after their terms expire, and not after they themselves expire, I used the word 'former', it was implied I meant the dead ones...


  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    perhaps OED isn't the sole authority, but here's what THEY have to say about it:

  16. [16] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Your Doc is factoring Covid mutations into his 5 year plan...but is he considering Covid jumps from human to animal populations...and back to humans again? Flu does that trick very well..and that’s a major factor in why we can’t eradicate flu. Same deal with common colds, only more so.

    Covid seems to jump species in China. I see little reason to believe it won’t do that trick here. I expect annual Covid jabs will become the norm. On the plus side, the needles are getting really small...and vaccine science is getting much more a matter of genetic engineering opposed to just a random hunt for strains that promote a solid and durable immune response and only rarely kill the patient they are intended to protect.

    The science is getting better faster and more expensive. The political impulse to cut corners to save money will not go away.

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:

    James T Canuck

    explained...because you grant your presidents the right to be referred to as Mr. President after their terms expire, and not after they themselves expire, I used the word 'former', it was implied I meant the dead ones...

    We "grant" no such thing, but people do it. In recent/current times, people are referring to the immediately previous president as "the former guy." See the dilemma? Then toss in the qualifier "every" in front of "former," and there you've gone and confused things! ;)

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