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VERIFY: Fact-checking President Biden's speech on COVID-19 and vaccinations

The president made several claims about the success of the vaccine rollout during his speech.

President Joe Biden made his first prime-time address Thursday since taking office. He spent most of the speech talking about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout.

Here are a few claims from his speech.

CLAIM: We're going to go from a million shots a day that I promised in December before I was sworn in, to maintaining, beating our current pace of 2 million shots a day, outpacing the rest of the world.

This is true but it needs some additional context.

A chart from the Centers for Disease Control shows that the United States is vaccinating 2 million people per day now and the number of vaccinations per day has slowly increased over time.

The nation reached 1 million shots per day just before he was inaugurated and the seven-day average has continued to increase.

And, according to independent data curators, that is the highest rate of total vaccinations per day in the world. But, when measured per capita, the United States is behind a few other countries.

Our World in Data, which is missing the most recent data from quite a few countries including China, shows that the 2 million vaccinations per day administered in the U.S. is the highest in the world. The next highest vaccinations administered per day is in India, which is vaccinating more than 1 million people per day. China was vaccinating fewer people per day than the United States when Our World in Data stopped collecting their data.

However, Our World in Data’s per capita chart shows the United States is actually third in vaccines administered per 100 people. Chile leads the world in daily vaccinations per capita and Israel is second. Both of those countries have much smaller populations than the U.S., which is the third-most populous country in the world.

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CLAIM: A year ago we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked. Denials for days, weeks, then months. That led to more deaths, more infections, more stress, and more loneliness.

The first part of the claim — that the virus was met with silence — is false.

The Trump White House unveiled the Coronavirus Task Force tasked with leading the nation’s response on January 29, 2020, a day before the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

The ban on travel to and from China that Trump regularly touted in his later re-election campaign was on January 31. He also mentioned the virus, albeit very briefly, in his State of the Union address a few days later on February 4.

However, Biden’s reference to denials has merit. It’s true Trump often downplayed the virus.

In a February 27 press conference, Trump claimed “within a couple of days, [the 15 active cases] is going to be down to close to zero.”

He, at times, compared the virus to the flu and set unrealistic timelines, such as his late March speech when he said he hoped to have everything reopened by Easter of last year.

Story continues below this video. Check out previous stories on the VERIFY YouTube channel.

CLAIM: When I took office 50 days ago, only 8% of Americans ... after months, only 8% of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today that number is 65%.

There are three claims to this statement — we’ll go through them one by one.

It’s false to claim that those vaccination numbers came “after months” when Biden took office. The Department of Health and Human Services says the first vaccines were administered on December 14, 2020. Biden took office on January 20, 2021. That’s just 37 days or a little over one month since vaccine distribution first began.

The claim that only 8% of Americans over the age of 65 had been vaccinated is difficult to track. We don’t have the data to verify that only 8% of Americans 65 and older had received a vaccination at the time Biden took office. 

And today’s number of 65% is pretty close to the CDC’s data. The CDC’s data as of March 11 shows that 62.4% of the population 65 and older has received their first vaccination. On January 19, the day before Biden took office, the CDC wasn’t publicly tracking vaccinations by age group, so there isn’t a direct comparison we can make to today’s figures.

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