New jab target, running in 2024 and Trump: What Biden said at his first news conference as US president

4 weeks ago

President Joe Biden has set a new goal of 200 million COVID vaccination doses in his first 100 days in office.

That is double the target of 100 million jabs he set in December and achieved earlier this month before his 60th day in office – an average of 2.5 million doses a day.

“I believe we can do it,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House in his first news conference as US president.

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The US is averaging around 2.5m vaccines doses a day
Image: The US is averaging around 2.5m vaccine doses a day

“There are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting and still a lot of work to do.

“But I can say to the American people: Help is here and hope is on the way.”

In a wide-ranging news conference, Mr Biden also said he is planning to run for the White House again in 2024, by which time he will be 81.

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That may bring him up against Donald Trump, whom he beat in November and who has said he might try again in three years’ time.

Reminded by a reporter that Mr Trump had already established a re-election committee by this point in his term, Mr Biden laughed as he replied: “My predecessor needed to. My predecessor. Oh, God, I miss him. No, the answer is yes. My plan is to run for re-election. That’s my expectation.”

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Biden on Trump: ‘Oh God, I miss him’

The vaccine goal amounts to a continuation of the country’s existing pace of vaccinations through to the end of month.

Over the next month, the US supply of vaccines is on track to increase and states are lifting eligibility requirements for people to get the shots.

“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close,” he added.

In addition, $ 10bn (£7.2bn) is going to be allocated expanding access to vaccines for the “highest-risk communities,” Mr Biden said.

More than 545,000 Americans have died since the start of the pandemic while more than 30 million people have caught the disease, making it easily the worst-hit country in the world.

Nearly half of schools from kindergarten through to eighth grade (13-14yr-olds) have opened for in-person learning, Mr Biden said, quoting a department of education report.

It means the US has almost met another of his targets – that of having a majority of such schools fully operational within the same 100-day deadline.

A mass vaccination centre in Pheonix, Arizona, where anyone over 16  can get a jab
Image: A mass vaccination centre in Pheonix, Arizona, where anyone over 16 can get a jab

Mr Biden has been in the White House since 20 January – and it was his first formal news conference more than two months after taking office.

That makes him the first president in four decades to reach this point in his term without having conducted such a question-and-answer session.

During the press conference, he was pressed on the issue of migration – and rejected claims that more migrants were
making the journey to the US border because they perceived him to be a “nice guy.”

The administration has struggled to house a rising number of unaccompanied minors caught at the border, and many have criticised the conditions in which the minors are held in federal shelters, calling for children to be released faster.

Mr Biden said he would take steps to more quickly move the migrant children and teens out of cramped detention facilities in Texas.

He also said it will be “hard” to meet the 1 May deadline to remove US troops from Afghanistan, but that he doesn’t expect them to be there next year.

Dealing with North Korea, which launched ballistic missiles this week, is the top foreign policy issue for him, he said.

People walk past near TV screens showing a news program reporting about North Korea's missiles with file images at an electronic shop in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Pic: AP
Image: People walk past near TV screens showing a news program reporting about North Korea’s missiles with file images at an electronic shop in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Pic: AP

A long-time campaigner for gun control, he urged Congress to act quickly to bring in new laws after two mass shootings in a week and hinted he may act on his own.

A further $ 15 million (£11m) is being sent to help Palestinians with their COVID-19 response in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the US State Department said in a statement on Thursday.

The funds from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) would help support efforts by the Catholic Relief
Services in healthcare facilities as well as address food insecurity, the statement said.

Analysis: Big promises, big achievements, but big questions, too

By Alex Rossi, US correspondent

It was unsurprising that Joe Biden kicked off the first formal news conference of his presidency with a big promise.

He has pledged 200 million Americans will be given vaccines by the end of his first 100 days in office.

He’s staking his fortunes on his handling of the pandemic and what better way of convincing the public that the country is in safe hands than by setting performance targets – and then achieving them.

He’s already notched up 100 million shots in arms – his first target.

But what was interesting about this press conference was that the questions primarily focused on other issues.

His handling of the pandemic has, so far, been a success and if it continues there should be a political windfall for the administration.

However it’s clear that other issues are starting to come to the centre and will start dominating the narrative.

How Joe Biden combats climate change, increases gun control and handles the surge of migrants on the southern border are all being scrutinised closely.

None of those issues will be easily resolved as his predecessors well know.

The first 65 days may have been defined by the pandemic but the rest of his presidency will require a broader focus – something that will be hard to achieve.

We also learned that Mr Biden’s ‘expectation’ will be that he will run again in 2024 with VP Kamala Harris as his running mate.

A lot will have changed by then.

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