WASHINGTON - The United States reached a notable milestone on Tuesday with 50% of adults becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19 nationwide, according to data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To date, more than 128 million American adults are fully vaccinated and nearly 158 million — or 61.5% — have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the CDC.
In addition to reaching the 50% mark, White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said during a COVID-19 briefing that 25 states and the District of Columbia have also fully vaccinated at least half of their adult residents.
"Nine states have recently crossed the threshold of 70% of adults with at least one shot," Slavitt added.
The White House expects the U.S. on Tuesday will reach a notable milestone with 50% of American adults becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
President Joe Biden set a goal for 70% of adults to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the Fourth of July, with 160 million fully vaccinated against the virus. He called on Americans to get the shot so the country "can celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence from this virus."
The White House has ramped up its vaccine distribution as COVID-19 cases and deaths have dramatically fallen across the country in recent weeks.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, reminded Americans that despite the decreasing number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19, and with the upcoming holiday weekend, she implored everyone who has not to get vaccinated so we can "regain so much of what we have lost."
"Visiting friends and family. These are the events we missed over the last year and we are now safe to do when we are vaccinated. This past weekend I spent time outside with my family and I was encouraged to see so many others outside and to see so many of their smiles, working to regain so much of what we have lost. All of this is possible because vaccinations are going up and cases and risk of community transmission across the country are going down," Walensky said.
In total, 39.3% of the U.S. population 12 and older are now fully vaccinated and nearly 50% in that group have received at least one dose, CDC data shows. The emergency approval for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, one of three currently being administered in the country, was expanded earlier this month by the Food and Drug Administration to include those between 12-15 years old.
Earlier Tuesday, Moderna released preliminary findings that showed its vaccine also strongly protects kids as young as 12 and said it would submit its teen data to the FDA and other global regulators in early June.
A third vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is also being administered to individuals 18 and up.
The Biden administration has said it has entered a "new phase" in the fight to end the pandemic as it seeks to make it easier for people to get shots amid waning demand. Biden called for states to make COVID-19 vaccines available on a walk-in basis and directed all federal pharmacy partners to do the same.
The government also launched a website — vaccines.gov — to help Americans find a vaccine nearest to them and make an appointment. Individuals can also text their zip code to 438829 to find a nearby location with availability.
The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two weeks after the second dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after the single shot of the J&J vaccine.
The new milestone also comes on the heels of the CDC easing mask guidance, saying those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors and can stop social distancing in most places. Regardless of vaccination status, masks are still required on public transportation — buses, trains and planes — and in other settings like hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.
In response, many major retailers, including Target, Kroger, Walmart and CVS, dropped their mask rules for fully vaccinated customers because of the CDC change, while some have opted to keep them in place for now.
With an increased vaccine supply now available for all eligible Americans, Biden recently said the U.S. will share an additional 20 million vaccine doses with the world over the next six weeks — making a total of 80 million doses to be shared. The additional doses will come from existing U.S. production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks as they become available, he said.
"We need to help fight the disease around the world to keep us safe here at home and to do the right thing of helping other people. It’s the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do; it’s the strong thing to do," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.