President Biden said on Tuesday that the U.S. will produce enough vaccines for every adult in the U.S. by the end of May, while making a fresh push to vaccinate school staff over the next month.
"We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May," Biden said, crediting his administration's efforts to boost production and moving up the timeline from the end of July, which is what the president was saying just a few weeks ago.
As announced earlier in the day, Biden said his administration is invoking the Defense Production Act to boost production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend.
In an unusual partnership between two pharmaceutical competitors, the administration is helping to ensure that Merck facilities can help Johnson & Johnson boost its production.
Biden also called on states to prioritize teachers and school staff as essential workers in the vaccination schedule, calling for every grade-school employee and child care provider to receive at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of the month.
"As yet another move to help accelerate the safe reopening of schools, let's treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is. And that means getting essential workers who provide that service — educators, school staff, child care workers — get them vaccinated immediately. They're essential workers," the president said.
Biden said that already at least 30 states prioritize educators in the queue for vaccines, but he was "using the full authority of the federal government" to direct all states and the District of Columbia to do the same. Biden said the change will go into effect next week to move pre-K through 12th-grade school staff ahead in line. He also said the federal government would use its program that ships vaccines to local pharmacies to help facilitate doses for educators.
Reopening schools for in-person learning has been among the pricklier debates to emerge within the coronavirus pandemic, and it's something Biden has prioritized. There's broad scientific consensus that young children are far less prone to the more dangerous effects of the coronavirus and are less likely to spread the virus. But young adults like high school and college students, as well as school staff, are at higher risk.
"What a tremendous relief to have a president who is meeting this moment of crisis. Vaccinations are a key ingredient to reopening schools safely, and this is the administration taking the steps to ramp up vaccinations for educators, which is great news for everyone who wants in-school learning," American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.