/As Australia struggles with its coronavirus vaccine rollout, America vaccinated eight million people in two days – ABC News

As Australia struggles with its coronavirus vaccine rollout, America vaccinated eight million people in two days – ABC News

Just before Easter, the United States passed another milestone as it tried to vaccinate the majority of its nearly 330 million people.

In just 48 hours, eight million COVID-19 vaccine shots were delivered.

As Australia struggles to ramp up our vaccine rollout, the US is delivering enough shots every day that it could vaccinate our entire population in a little over a week.

Here’s a look at how they got there, and why US President Joe Biden is still warning of a “life or death race” against the coronavirus.

America began its COVID-19 vaccination drive in December 2020

A black woman in a face mask sits while a black doctor with black hair tied in a bun injects her.

AP: Mark Lennihan

Off the back of former president Donald Trump’s Warp Speed program, President Joe Biden made it one of his first priorities to ramp up vaccine production and distribution once he took office in late January.

Already by that point, the US was vaccinating almost a million people per day on average.

Like Australia, the Federal US government is responsible for securing and distributing the vaccines. Individual states and districts are in charge of getting them into peoples’ arms.

A few weeks into office, Biden announced the purchase of 200 million extra vaccines — 100 million Pfizer and 100 million Moderna — meaning that in February the US had enough vaccines on order to vaccinate every American.

The early stages weren’t without hiccups.

A Trump administration plan to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 fell short by more than 17 million.

While in some states the vaccine rollout was seamless, in others, it was the opposite.

The US is using three different vaccines

A gloved hand holds up a small vial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

AP: Mike Morones

Unlike here in Australia (where most of us will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine), the US is rolling out three vaccines:

On his first day in office, Biden signed 10 executive orders designed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, with several aimed at boosting vaccinations.

Among the measures were mass vaccinations sites, more funding for states to ramp up their own vaccine rollouts, making vaccines available through local pharmacies, allowing states to activate their contingents of the National Guard to help administer vaccines and using the Defense Production Act  (a law usually reserved for wartime) to make supplies for vaccines.

Crucially, the Biden administration has benefited from Moderna and Pfizer ramping up vaccine production that started in late 2020 during former president Trump’s time in office. Biden did negotiate a deal with Johnson and Johnson when it fell behind on its production targets to allow “round-the-clock” operations so vaccines could be delivered faster.

There’s already a date to open up vaccines for everybody

In a vast majority of states already, anyone over the age of 16 can book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the US.

Today, Biden announced a deadline for that to happen nationwide.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said, “every adult over the age of 18, 18 or older, will be eligible to be vaccinated” by April 19. 

“No more confusing rules, no more confusing restrictions,” he said.

The new date shaves two weeks of the May 1 deadline that was already announced by the Biden administration.

The White House says that nearly 1 in 3 Americans and over 40 per cent of US adults have received at least one shot, and one in four adults is fully vaccinated.

America’s most populous state, California, is planning an end to almost a year of closures by mid June.

And Biden has set July 4 — Independence Day —  as the date for America to return to some kind of normal.

“After this long, hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special,” he told an address to the nation in March.

“Where we not only mark our independence as a nation but begin to mark our independence from this virus.”

While estimates differ, a New York Times analysis suggests the US could reach herd immunity even earlier, perhaps even in May.

Despite the good news, the US isn’t out of the woods yet

Diners eat in tents in Michigan

AP: Carlos Osorio

As the vaccine rollout ramped up in January, the US went through its worst-ever wave of the pandemic.

At one point, there were more than 300,000 cases and 4,000 deaths confirmed in a single day.

While those dire figures have dropped sharply, there has been a plateau in recent weeks that has experts worried about a fourth wave.

An average of 60,000 cases have been confirmed every day in the past week (although nearly half are confined to just five states).

That’s prompted a warning from the President.

“The virus is spreading because we have too many people who see the end in sight, think we’re at the finish line already, but let me be deadly earnest with you — we aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life and death race against this virus,” he said.

“I want every American to know in no uncertain terms that this fight isn’t over, this progress we’ve worked so hard to achieve can be reversed. Now’s not the time to let down. Now’s not the time to celebrate.”

The message hasn’t reached everyone.

Men and women wearing blue and white smile and raise their hands without wearing masks

AP: Jeffrey McWhorter

Journalists at the game reported that mask-wearing had dropped to about 50 per cent of people by the middle innings.