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Biden Aims To Make All Adults Eligible For Coronavirus Vaccine By May 1

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Over and over again during the first 50 or so days of his presidency, Joe Biden has been asked this question - when will we get back to normal? Last night, in a primetime address to the nation, he named two key dates, May 1 and July 4. Biden says all American adults will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine by May 1. And if all keeps going well, he says the U.S. could be closer to normal by the Fourth of July. But to get there, the president says he needs the country to be on board.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There is hope and light of better days ahead if we all do our part.

DETROW: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe joins us now. Hey, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

DETROW: So many people have been anxiously waiting and refreshing and calling to see when they can be eligible for a vaccine. What does this May 1 deadline mean?

RASCOE: States have been handling vaccine distribution on their own and have very different rates at this point. In New Mexico and Alaska, for example, more than 25% of the population has at least one dose. But the rate is much lower in Georgia, Texas and Washington, D.C. The federal government is now stepping up its efforts to boost those rates. Biden said that they will double the number of pharmacies offering the vaccine to more than 20,000. That's about one-third of the pharmacies in the nation.

And they want to increase the number of people who can give the vaccines. That means expanding the pool to include people like dentists, midwives and veterinarians. And there will be a new website supported by the federal government that will help people find appointments. That's been a real challenge, especially for people without Internet or computer access. Biden did clarify that it doesn't mean that everyone will actually get a vaccine by May 1, but they should be able to at least get in line.

DETROW: Yeah. And then there's the July 4 date. Maybe it's an additional stimulus to the charcoal and fireworks industry in addition to the law he signed yesterday. But what does the president mean by this July 4 date of normalcy, of possibly gathering by then?

RASCOE: Well, this is a much more aggressive timeline than he had been giving, which was a possible return to normal by Christmas. Basically, Biden said that Americans need to get vaccinated when they can. And he urged people to help their friends and families do the same. And he said that there - that they will need to continue following health guidelines like wearing masks. And if they do all of that, then he said that he hopes that Americans will be able to hold small gatherings by the Fourth of July. Here's more from him on that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: If we do this together, by July the Fourth, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.

DETROW: Ayesha, President Biden also spoke about the $1.9 trillion bill that he signed into law yesterday on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. How quickly do these payments, this aid - how quickly does it start getting into Americans' checking accounts?

RASCOE: They're saying it could be there as early as this weekend for people who already have their information with the IRS. And this is a big moment for Biden. This has been his No. 1 priority since he got into office, getting a relief bill passed. The White House has been saying help is now on the way. And that's what they're - that's their message at the moment.

DETROW: And in the time we've got left, the president is going to be hitting the road soon, next week. I mean, that's much different for him.

RASCOE: Yes. He's going to be hitting the road to sell and promote this plan. He's going to be in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Georgia on Friday. He and other officials will be crisscrossing the country talking about the benefits of this law.

DETROW: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.