(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday declared June a “national month of action” to mobilize even more Americans to get vaccinated by July Fourth, in order to enjoy what he called “a summer of freedom.”
With the help of vaccinations, Biden, said, Americans are headed into a summer vastly different from last year.
“A summer of freedom. A summer of joy. A summer of get-togethers and celebrations. An all-American summer that this country deserves after a long, long, dark winter that we’ve all endured,” he said.
“It’s clearer than ever: the more people we get vaccinated, the more success we’re gonna have in our fight against this virus,” Biden began, speaking in front of a blue backdrop reading, “we can do this.”
He said the country needs to be “free from fear this fall.”
He also sent a warning.
“For all the progress we’re making as a country, if you’re unvaccinated, you are still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying or spreading disease to others,” he continued.
Independence Day is the deadline Biden set last month for the country to have at least 70% of adults having received at least one shot.
To help reach his goal, Biden announced five initiatives in the administration’s month-long effort.
First, Biden said pharmacies — including Albertsons, CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens — will be open 24 hours on Fridays to boost the number of vaccinations and he reminded Americans that Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccinations sites. He also announced four of the nation’s largest child care providers — KinderCare, Learning Care Group, the YMCA and Bright Horizons — will offer free drop-in child care to all parents and caregivers getting vaccinated or recovering from a shot.
Second, Biden said, the administration is relaunching outreach efforts with a national tour featuring Vice President Kamala Harris in the South and Midwest. They’re also launching a new initiative called, “Shots at the Shop” to recruit Black-owned barbershops and beauty shops to help with outreach. America’s mayors are joining the effort by launching a competition to see which city can grow its vaccination rate the most by July Fourth.
Third, Biden asked all employers to “do the right thing” and make it easy for employees to get vaccinated during work hours, reminding them the government is offering a tax credit to cover the cost.
Fourth, the White House will continue to encourage “incentives and fun rewards.”
Finally, Biden asked all Americans to help others in their direct circles to get vaccinated — whether that’s driving someone to a vaccination site or registering them online.
“Take at least five actions to help in June, and you might even be invited to visit us at the White House in July to celebrate independence together,” Biden teased toward the end of his remarks.
Nearly 63% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 135 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. still needs to vaccinate roughly 20 million adults in the next month to reach Biden’s goal by July Fourth.
As the White House works to get more young people vaccinated, Biden also had a message directly geared towards the age group, warning them to “listen up.”
“This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact your social life,” the president said. “If you’re thinking that the side effects from the shot are worse than the COVID or that you can’t just take a chance, you’re — you’re just dead wrong.”
In an effort to reach across the aisle to those who didn’t vote for him, Biden said, “getting the vaccine is not a partisan act,” and without naming former President Donald Trump directly, highlighted how COVID-19 vaccines were first authorized under his administration.
“The science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. Matter of fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican president and widely developed by a Democratic president — deployed by a Democratic president,” he said.
Biden teased some of the more popular initiatives in his remarks including Anheuser-Busch, the national brewer that produces Budweiser, announcing it will hold its “biggest beer giveaway ever.” If 70% of adults are partially vaccinated by Biden’s deadline, Anheuser-Busch says it “will buy America’s next round of beer, seltzer, non-alcoholic beverage or other A-B product.”
However, there is some fine print. A person must create an account and upload a photo of “your favorite place to grab a beer.” Then, the first 200,000 submissions will get a $5 reward.
Still, the move builds on other public and private-sector partnerships the White House has formed with the goal of ramping up vaccinations and combatting vaccine hesitancy. Biden’s COVID-19 task force last month also announced a partnership with dating apps to encourage single Americans to flaunt their vaccination status.
Other examples of private sector initiatives recently launched include Major League Baseball teams offering free tickets for those vaccinated on-site at games and United Airlines’ sweepstakes to win a year of free flights.
Despite the promise of plane tickets and gift cards, among other perks, Biden’s remarks also come as the pace of vaccinations slow in the U.S. In the last week, the country saw a 30% decrease in doses administered per day. Unvaccinated Americans are still leaving tens of millions of unused doses for COVID-19 sitting on the shelves with federal officials telling governors last week that some 53 million doses were still available to order.
To make sure the surplus doesn’t go unused, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the U.S. will announce its plan to distribute 80 million vaccines overseas in the next two weeks.
Some states have taken matters into their own hands and proven incentives can work. Maryland, Delaware, New York and Kentucky have instituted their own versions of cash lotteries to incentivize people to get vaccinated, after, in Ohio, vaccination rates jumped 33% the week after the state announced its $1 million Vax-a-Million lottery, according to an Associated Press analysis.
As of last month, all American adults are eligible for vaccines, and three have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use. Vaccination rates widely vary from state to state with Vermont and Maine having the highest rates and Mississippi and Alabama having the lowest, according to the CDC. At least 12 states — many of them located in the Northeast — had inoculated more than 70% of their adult population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday evening.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, Anne Flaherty, Katherine Faulders and Erin Shumaker contributed to this report.
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