WASHINGTON - The White House announced on Friday that three cities will become federally run mass vaccination centers as part of President Joe Biden’s plan to vaccinate 200 million Americans by the end of April.
Speaking during a press briefing, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients announced that Boston, Norfolk, Virginia, and Newark, New Jersey, will soon be capable of vaccinating 15,000 people daily.
"There are over 650 federally supported community vaccination sites across the country and we’re also continuing to bring more federally run mass vaccination centers online including three new sites we’re announcing today," Zients said.
Zients added that the U.S. is currently vaccinating an average of 2.5 million people a day. He says the pace will allow Biden to meet his goal of 200 million total vaccinations.
Last week, the U.S. cleared Biden’s goal of administering 100 million coronavirus shots, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office, as the president prepared to set his sights higher in the nationwide vaccination effort.
The March 19 milestone marked 100 million shots given since Jan. 20, Biden’s first day in office.
The week before, the U.S. surpassed more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine since inoculations first began being administered in December. That’s according to numbers posted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Anthony Fauci (L), White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients (M) and CDC director Rochelle Walensky (R) speak at a White House COVID-19 task force briefing. (White House)
Despite the optimism surrounding the successful vaccination efforts, Zients and other medical experts have cautioned against people letting down their guard amid an ongoing deadly pandemic.
"It is clear there is a case for optimism, but there is not a case for relaxation," Zients says. "This is not the time to let down our guard."
Speaking at the same briefing on Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci says scientists are trying to answer the two most pressing questions for millions of Americans already fully vaccinated against COVID-19: Can they become infected without showing any symptoms, and if so, can they transmit the coronavirus to someone else?
Fauci said at the White House coronavirus briefing Friday that a large trial is under way involving 12,000 college students at more than 20 universities.
"This is a question of extreme importance," he said. "This will help inform science-based decisions about mask use and about social distancing post-vaccination."
Half the students will get the two-dose Moderna shot and the other half will initially serve as a control group, while getting the same vaccine four months later.
All the students will keep an electronic diary, swab their noses daily and provide occasional blood samples. They’ll also provide the names of close contacts. Fauci says it may take about five months to get answers.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.