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Nearly Half Of States Will Make All Adults COVID-19 Vaccine Eligible By April 15

Officials said Friday that as the country's vaccination rollout picks up speed, most U.S. states are on track to open eligibility to all adults by May 1 or sooner.
Mario Tama
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Officials said Friday that as the country's vaccination rollout picks up speed, most U.S. states are on track to open eligibility to all adults by May 1 or sooner.

Nearly half of U.S. states will have opened COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults by April 15, officials said Friday, putting them weeks ahead of the May 1 deadline that President Biden announced earlier this month.

Jeff Zients, Biden's COVID-19 czar, said that 46 states and Washington, D.C., have announced plans to expand eligibility to all adults by May 1. Officials at the White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing noted an uptick in confirmed cases and hospitalizations, and urged the public to stay vigilant even as the country's vaccination rollout picks up speed.

"It's clear there is a case for optimism, but there is not a case for relaxation," Zients said. "This is not the time to let down our guard. We need to follow the public health guidance, wear a mask, socially distance and get a vaccine when it's your turn."

A growing number of Americans will be able to sign up sooner rather than later, as dozens of states have moved to accelerate their timelines. Fourteen states have already opened eligibility to all adults or are set to do so in the next week, with another 12 set to follow by April 15.

Alaska became the first state to make vaccinations available to all adults over the age of 16 earlier this month, followed by Mississippi. Several others have since followed suit, including Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Georgia and West Virginia.

More states will join that list in the coming days. Starting March 29, for example, eligibility will expand to all adults in places like North Dakota, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas. Minnesota and Indiana will similarly expand access before the end of the month.

In the Northeast, where case counts are on the rise, adults will be able to register for appointments starting April 1 in Connecticut and April 2 in New Hampshire. On the opposite coast, California announced Thursday that adults ages 50 and older will be eligible for appointments starting April 1, with individuals 16 and older to follow on April 15.

Other states are moving to make more groups eligible ahead of schedule, based on age or underlying conditions.

New Jersey's governor said on Friday that people ages 55 and older, individuals over the age of 16 with intellectual and developmental disabilities, higher education employees and other essential workers will qualify starting April 5. Floridians ages 40 and older will be eligible beginning March 29, officials announced Thursday.

According to a map released by the White House COVID-19 Response Team on Friday, four states have yet to confirm plans to expand eligibility ahead of the May 1 deadline: New York, Wyoming, Arkansas and South Carolina, where officials have said they are not on track to hit that threshold until May 3.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the briefing that the country has seen an uptick in case counts and hospital admissions, with the most recent 7-day averages showing about 57,000 cases and 4,700 hospitalizations per day, and hospitalizations hovering around 1,000.

Noting the trajectory with concern, she implored listeners to "take this moment very seriously" and continue following public health guidance.

"If you haven't been vaccinated, your turn is likely very soon," Walensky said. "We can turn this around, but it will take all of us working together."

Friday's announcement comes a day after Biden declared a new goal of getting 200 million shots in arms by his 100th day in office, or the end of April. Federal officials said the country hit his initial target of 100 million doses last Friday, which was his 58th day in office.

The U.S. is administering 2.5 million shots a day at its current pace, Zients said, adding that vaccine makers are "setting and hitting targets." Some 27 million doses went to states, tribes and territories this week.

Johnson & Johnson has accelerated production of its single-shot vaccine and is on track to deliver 11 million doses next week. Zients expressed confidence that it will, and, in doing so, meet its goal of 20 million doses for the month of March.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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