Biden to announce all adults in US eligible for Covid vaccine by April 19

Washington (AFP) –


US President Joe Biden will announce Tuesday that all adults across America can get Covid-19 vaccine shots within two weeks, sooner than expected, as the IMF boosted its forecast for world economic growth this year amid signs of a rebound from the pandemic.

The White House said Biden is shifting the deadline for full eligibility up from May 1 to April 19 after rapid progress in all 50 states in the vaccine rollouts.

A senior administration official, who did not want to be identified, said the announcement would be made by the president later Tuesday.

If the target is met, this would mean an end to restrictions by age, health issues or other categories for people wanting to get coronavirus vaccines. It would not necessarily mean that anyone could get a shot immediately, as distribution remains a work in progress.

Biden was scheduled to visit a vaccination site in Virginia, just outside of Washington, on Tuesday, before delivering remarks on the topic at the White House.

As the White House prepared for the announcement, the International Monetary Fund said accelerated vaccines and a flood of government stimulus spending, especially in the US, means it now sees global economic growth this year of 6.0 percent, up from a forecast of 5.5 percent in January.

This would be a sharp reversal from the contraction of 3.3 percent in 2020 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic -- the worst peacetime downturn since the Great Depression a century ago.

"Even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible," IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said.

But she warned that more must be done to head off permanent economic scars in developing countries.

- Focus on vaccines -

The pandemic has now killed more than 2.8 million people worldwide, upended economies and lifestyles everywhere and put huge pressure on health care systems.

On a global scale it has not abated, despite more than 660 million jabs having been doled out across the world. India, for instance, a vaccine producing powerhouse, is struggling to contain a record breaking surge in daily infections.

New Delhi on Tuesday imposed an immediate nighttime curfew, and the financial hub Mumbai imposed similar measures.

Britain is among the pace-setters for inoculations with almost half its population having received at least one jab.

In sharp contrast, many other countries in Europe are lagging behind Britain for vaccinations and have been forced to reimpose deeply unpopular shutdowns to battle stubbornly high caseloads.

One problem in Europe has been a wave of concern over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine and its reported links to blood clots.

The European Medicines Agency said Tuesday it has not yet reached a conclusion on whether there is a causal link. It said it plans a press briefing later this week.

In Washington, Biden put mass vaccinations at the center of his agenda after taking office in a bid to quickly halt the pandemic and launch the US economy into a powerful comeback.

An initial goal of administering one million vaccine doses every day has long been surpassed and on Monday senior White House pandemic advisor Andy Slavitt said the United States is "now averaging 3.1 million shots per day over the most recent seven-day period."

"Over the weekend, there were more than 4 million recorded vaccinations in a single day for the first time," he said.

- Concerns over new surge -

Countering the stream of good news from the White House is a steady rise in Covid-19 infections, as people let down their guard, following more than a year of mask-wearing, social distancing and restrictions on businesses and entertainment.

Almost 556,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, by the far the highest toll reported in any country. On Monday, the Johns Hopkins University tracker reported 79,075 new confirmed cases and 607 deaths.

Across the globe there was some other good news on the pandemic front: Australia and New Zealand, which are both largely free of the coronavirus, announced the creation of a two-way, quarantine-free travel corridor between them starting the night of April 18.

"This is the lifeline we needed; this is what we've been asking for," said Jim Boult, the mayor of Queenstown in New Zealand.