WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is set to highlight his administration's push to dramatically expand distribution of COVID-19 vaccines Thursday, with the nation on the cusp of meeting his goal of injecting 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office — on Day 58 of his presidency.
From his first days in office, Biden has set clear — and achievable — metrics for success, whether it be vaccinations or school reopenings, as part of a deliberate strategy of underpromising, then overdelivering. Aides believe that exceeding his goals breeds trust in government after the prior administration's fanciful rhetoric on the virus, while also creating regular opportunities to proclaim success.
The 100 million dose goal was met with some skepticism when it was first announced on Dec. 8, days before the U.S. had even one authorized vaccine for COVID-19, let alone the three that have now received emergency use authorization. Still, it was generally seen within reach, if optimistic.
By the time Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, the U.S. had already administered 20 million shots at a rate of about 1 million doses per day, sparking complaints at the time that Biden's goal was not ambitious enough. Biden quickly revised it upward to 150 million doses in his first 100 days.
Now the U.S. is injecting an average of about 2.2 million doses each day — and the pace of vaccination is likely to dramatically expand later this month in conjunction with an expected surge in supply of the vaccines.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 million more doses have been reported to the agency since Biden's inauguration, but those reports lag the actual date of administration. Vaccination trend lines point to Biden breaking the 100 million mark on Thursday, with the numbers likely to be confirmed by the CDC over the weekend.
Biden is likely to mark the occasion Thursday with an East Room speech billed as providing an update on the nation's vaccination efforts.
The president has moved to speed up deliveries of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as to expand the number of places to get a shot and who can administer them, with a focus on increasing the nation's capacity to inject doses as supply constraints lifted.
The risk in setting too rosy expectations is that an administration might become defined by its failure to meet them, such as in May 2020, when President Donald Trump said the nation had "prevailed" over the virus.
At the time, the country had seen about 80,000 deaths from the virus. This week, the U.S. death toll topped 538,000. Trump's lax approach and lack of credibility also contributed to poor adherence to public safety rules among the American public.