Everyone in the U.S. over the age of 16 is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
"For months I've been telling Americans to get vaccinated when it's your turn," U.S. President Joe Biden said during an NBC vaccination special that aired on April 18. "Well, it's your turn, now."
Some states chose to start with healthcare workers and people with jobs that put them in the high-risk category; others simply began by vaccinating older residents first.
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"It's caused a lot of confusion, and the last thing we want is confusion," Harald Schmidt, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told Kaiser Health News in March.
A new era: On March 10, Alaska became the first state to drop its restrictions, making any person over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Over the past month, other states have followed suit.
On April 19, the final six states with restrictions — Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont — dropped them, meaning all adults living in the U.S., Washington D.C., or Puerto Rico are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
"It's truly historic that we have already reached this milestone," Nandita Mani, the associate medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Washington Medical Center, told the New York Times.
The next hurdle: Experts believe we need 60-80% of the population to be immune to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity — the point at which the virus is no longer able to spread.
It's not clear exactly how many people have natural immunity, but if everyone over the age of 16 got their shots, we'd be within a few percentage points of the 80% threshold. However, we'd still probably need to vaccinate some of the under-16 crowd to actually reach it.
President Joe Biden
"We need to vaccinate tens of millions more Americans."
However, just because all adults are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines doesn't mean they'll all sign up — many Americans are still hesitant to get vaccinated.
Additionally, the sign-up process for COVID-19 vaccines has been about as confusing as the eligibility requirements — even those adults who are ready and willing to get vaccinated could have trouble making an appointment. But the supply of doses has increased enough these days that it shouldn't be too hard to find an appointment in most places.
Just do it: The U.S. is currently administering 3.2 million COVID-19 vaccines every day. If it can maintain that pace, about 70% of the population will be vaccinated by mid-June — but that all depends on everyone who's eligible for COVID-19 vaccines getting their shots.
"We're making tremendous progress, but we're still in the race against this virus, and we need to vaccinate tens of millions more Americans," Biden said.
"We could have a safe and happy Fourth of July with your family and friends in small groups in your backyard," he continued. "That's going to take everyone doing their part. Get vaccinated."
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