President Joe Biden set out a new goal for U.S. vaccinations against COVID-19 at his first formal White House news conference.
"I hoped to get 100 million shots in people's arms in my first 100 days," Biden told reporters on Day 65 in the pandemic-distanced East Room of the White House on Thursday afternoon, using the length of the room instead of the width, as former President Donald Trump had.
"We met that goal last week by day 58, 42 days ahead of schedule. Now, today I'm setting a second goal, and that is we will, by my 100th day in office, have administered 200 million shots in people's arms. That's right. 200 million shots, in 100 days. I know it's ambitious. Twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close, not even close to what we are doing. I believe we can do it."
Biden, who has taken questions from reporters in other settings since taking office Jan. 20, was expected to face sharp queries on a recent rise in asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, plans to share coronavirus vaccines with other countries, and efforts to keep Americans safe from mass shootings.
Aides have been drafting potential questions and answers for the Democratic president in recent days to prepare for the event.
The White House says 130 million shots have been administered as of Wednesday. Some 85 million people have received one shot, while some 45 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Just a few dozen journalists from news outlets selected by the White House Correspondents' Association will be on hand in the East Room, because of restrictions related to the pandemic.
Biden's news conference is likely to offer a sharp contrast to the marathon sparring sessions his predecessor, Donald Trump, held with reporters, where the Republican president's insults and off-the-cuff remarks regularly made news. Ratings for the major cable television networks have dipped since Trump left the White House.
At 78, Biden is the oldest person to take office as U.S. president, and his political opponents will be looking for signs he has become less sharp with age.
Biden's popularity has remained high in his first two months in office, after a $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed Congress and millions were inoculated against the coronavirus with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
A March 17-18 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 59% of adults in the United States approving of Biden's overall job performance and 35% disapproving.
The president will face questions about his plans to advance gun control after two deadly mass shootings in less than a week. Biden called for a ban on assault weapons Tuesday and urged lawmakers to pass tighter gun control measures, but Republican support for such action is low.
Biden's next big legislative package could also come up. He is expected to unveil a roughly $3 trillion bill to boost U.S. infrastructure during a trip to Pittsburgh next week.
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.