President Joe Biden encouraged families with adolescents over 12 years old to make a plan to get vaccinated during remarks delivered on Wednesday.
His speech came shortly after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend to the CDC to allow those 12 and older to receive Pfizer's two-shot vaccine.
“Pending the CDC’s final approval later today, we’re going to have for the first time a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents over 12 years of age,” said Biden.
He called it a “giant step” in the fight against the pandemic.
“We know that kids at this age, 12 and above, are at risk from COVID-19. About 3 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in kids under 17 years of age, and teenagers can spread it to their friends, to their siblings, to their parents and to their grandparents,” said Biden.
By Thursday, Biden said more than 15,000 pharmacies across the country will be ready to vaccinate the new age group.
“We’re also going to be getting vaccines to pediatricians and family doctors, so parents and children can talk to doctors who they trust about getting a vaccination. And they’ll be able to do it at that office,” said Biden.
The president encouraged Americans to visit vaccines.gov or text their zip code to 438829 to find out where they can get a COVID-19 vaccination.
When asked about the gas issues in the Southeast, Biden says his administration has been in close contact with Colonial Pipeline.
“I think you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we’ll be getting that under control,” said Biden.
He also pushed for more education in the area of cybersecurity.
Regarding the violence in the Middle East, Biden says his administration has been in contact with leaders in the area.
“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory. But I had a conversation with the prime minister of Israel and I think that, my hope is that we’ll see this come to a conclusion sooner or later,” said Biden.
When asked about his meeting Wednesday with congressional leaders, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell, Biden said, “I came away encouraged.”
Watch Biden's remarks below:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of the country is currently fully vaccinated against the virus, including 45% of adults. Biden has said he hopes to have 70% of adults with at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4.
But according to Bloomberg, the U.S. vaccination rate has slowed in recent weeks. Vaccinations hit a low on May 8, when the seven-day average fell to 2.5 million per day. That number is expected to again increase this week now that kids aged 12 to 15 are now eligible to get vaccinated.
Demand for vaccines among adults has slowed, as the millions of Americans who were eager and able to be vaccinated have already received their shot. Last week, the White House previewed the next phase of its vaccine rollout — increasing accessibility.
The White House says it hopes to make shots more accessible through walk-in appointments and pop-up clinics, especially rural areas. They’re also brainstorming ways to clear barriers like time and transportation.
The Biden administration has already instituted a tax incentive for small and medium sized businesses who offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated. They’ve also partnered with Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to vaccination clinics.
However, a large segment of the population still remains hesitant to get vaccinated. While COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective, Biden has urged community leaders like pastors and doctors to advocate for widespread vaccine use.