Biden and the Vaccination Slowdown

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The F.D.A.’s decision to end the pause on Friday suggests it ultimately agreed that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks. Just as the Biden administration deserves credit for much of the overall success of the vaccination program, it also bears some responsibility for the slowdown.

But the Johnson & Johnson pause is not the only factor. Vaccine hesitancy also plays a role.

A poll last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 20 percent of U.S. adults said that either they would not get vaccinated or would do so only if required. Another 17 percent said they wanted to wait until the vaccine had been available longer and they could see how it affected others. Put those two groups together, and you can see that the country is starting to run low on unvaccinated adults who are eager to get a shot.

In Mercer County, Ohio, on the border with Indiana, people used to show up at the end of the day to claim any leftover shots. Recently, though, Mercer has had to throw out some doses, Jason Menchhofer, the county health administrator, told The Times.

When I spoke with Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, about the vaccine slowdown, he emphasized the role of hesitancy. “We’ve got people who are less eager,” Klain said. “We know we have to make the shot more convenient, particularly for younger people.”

To do so, the administration is increasing the number of pharmacies that can give the shot, to about 40,000, and will soon start urging them and other vaccine clinics to move to a no-appointment system; people will simply show up and get a shot, as they already can in New York City. The White House also wants employers to offer shots at work and colleges to offer shots to students. The reintroduction of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also likely to help.

“As people see the benefits to being vaccinated, I think we’ll continue to see progress,” Klain said.

That seems correct. The number of Americans hesitant to get a shot has declined substantially since December, Kaiser’s polls show. And the vaccines continue to work phenomenally well. Fully vaccinated people rarely get Covid and almost never get a serious version of it. In Britain and Israel, Covid deaths have fallen more than 97 percent in the last three months.

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