Biden

President Joe Biden is reflected in a teleprompter as he speaks about the COVID-19 vaccination program, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON • For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks. Now, though, the U.S. is on pace to fall short of his aim to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest, but it is increasingly resigned to missing the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.

About 16 million unvaccinated adults need to receive at least one dose in the next four weeks for Biden to meet his goal.

But the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped to about 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told reporters at a briefing Tuesday that he still hopes the goal will be met.

So far 14 states have reached 70% coverage among adults, with about a dozen more on pace to reach the milestone by July 4. But the state-to-state variation is stark.

Fauci said the administration is “pleading” with states, particularly those with low vaccination rates, to step up their efforts in the coming months, though some of the states trailing behind are hardly sharing the urgency.

In Mississippi, which trails the nation with only about 34% of its population vaccinated, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has called Biden’s goal “arbitrary, to say the least.”

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