President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that every American adult will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May, an accelerated timeline that pushes up anticipated distribution to the general public by two months.
Biden’s prediction came just days after the FDA approved a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which will now receive help from the pharmaceutical powerhouse “Merck” to enhance production along with the White House’s invocation of the Defense Production Act. The president and his press secretary, Jen Psaki, both noted that the companies are competitors on the open market.
“This is the type of collaboration between companies we saw in World War II,” Biden said.
In Minnesota, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told KARE 11 in a statement that the announcement is “of course welcome news,” even though top officials haven’t had a chance yet to review the details.
“Any increase in the supply of vaccines for COVID-19 gets us closer to the end of the pandemic. We have said previously that Minnesota’s network of health care providers and community vaccinators stands ready to handle a much greater volume of vaccine doses than we currently have,” the Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson said. “We would gladly adjust our planning and timetables to meet such a challenge.”
Gov. Tim Walz announced last week that Minnesota hopes to vaccinate 70% of the 65 and older population before moving into the next tier, which includes people with high-risk medical conditions. About 53% of people in that age group have received at least one dose so far, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard.
Sarah Curfman, the executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, advocates for a community that has been very isolated during the pandemic due to having a 10 times higher risk of death from the virus. Adults with down syndrome are included in that next tier for high-risk medical conditions.
The news from Biden, coupled with MDH’s announcement that people with other rare diseases will have more vaccine access, has her feeling optimistic. Her association may also consider running an outdoor summer camp for adults and teens in July or August, something they previously did not believe was possible.
“We can start thinking about, when do we bring the community back together?” Curfman said. “We do see that hope. People can start thinking about jobs. (However) I do think our community will still be a little shy to go completely back.”
That’s why President Biden says masks and social distancing should remain part of the solution. He also refused to give an exact timetable on when he predicts America will return to some sense of normalcy, only to say that he hopes it will occur at least by this time next year.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Biden said. “But we cannot let our guard down now, or assure that victory is inevitable.”