US & Canada

Covid: President Biden’s comments on vaccines fact-checked

By Reality Check team
BBC News

image source, Getty Images

President Joe Biden has been making the case for requiring Americans to be vaccinated.

In a televised speech, he said the unvaccinated were responsible for the rise in hospitalisations and made a series of claims about the US vaccine rollout.

We’ve been checking them out.

‘Before I took office, we hadn’t ordered enough vaccines for every American. Just weeks in office, we did.’

It’s true that the Trump administration hadn’t ordered enough doses to vaccinate every American – but they had secured hundreds of millions of jabs which the Biden administration subsequently rolled out.

Mr Trump secured 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna vaccines – the three jabs now authorised for use in the US.

That’s not enough to fully vaccinate the entire US population of more than 320 million people, as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

But it would however have been enough to fully vaccinate every American above the current minimum age of 12 (although there were no defined rules at the time).

image source, Getty Images
image captionCovid jabs are authorised for people over the age of 12 in the US

This order, combined with the Trump administration’s purchases, provided enough doses to fully vaccinate every American.

When Mr Trump left office in January, the US had vaccinated more than 16 million people – the fourth highest per capita after Israel, the UAE and the UK.

The Trump administration also secured contracts for another 400 million doses from Novavax and AstraZeneca – vaccines which are yet to be authorised in the US.

‘The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals… leaving no room for someone with a heart attack.’

A New York Times analysis published at the start of August found that the overwhelming majority of Covid hospitalisations were unvaccinated. This research looked at 40 US states and Washington DC.

It’s a similar picture in intensive care wards. At the start of July, there were under 5,000 beds occupied by Covid patients and this has risen to more than 25,000. This equates to about 80% of beds across the country.

Some US states are facing a far worse situation than others.

ICU capacity rates have reached more than 90% in Idaho, Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

‘I’m announcing a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated.’

This has taken by many as a move to introduce mandatory vaccinations, although Mr Biden has been careful with his words.

The president has previously said he had opposed mandatory vaccinations.

The new measures include the requirement that millions of federal government workers get vaccinated.

Back in July Mr Biden allowed workers to be tested twice a week instead – but he’s now removed that option.

image source, Getty Images
image captionThe US has seen protests against government vaccine mandates

When asked about vaccine mandates in December 2020, Mr Biden said: “I don’t think it should be mandatory, I wouldn’t demand it to be mandatory, but I would do everything in my power.”

His plan also requires workers at large private companies to be vaccinated or face weekly testing.

In July, when asked about the administrations thoughts on implementing a wider vaccine mandate, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “That’s not the role of the federal government – that is the role that institutions, private sector entities and others may take.”

The plan to require private companies to make sure workers are either vaccinated or face weekly testing is controversial and likely to be challenged in court.

‘Children have four times higher chance of getting hospitalised if they live in a state with low vaccination rates.’

Research suggests this is broadly accurate.

Mr Biden appears to be referring to a US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of Covid hospital admissions among of children (up to 17-years-old) published in August.

These low-vaccination states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho and Wyoming.

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