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U.S. likely to miss July 4 COVID-19 vaccine target, White House says

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WASHINGTON, June 22 (Reuters) - The United States will likely fail to meet President Joe Biden's goal to deliver at least one COVID-19 vaccine to 70% of adults by July 4, officials said on Tuesday and warned the Delta variant first found in India poses the greatest threat to U.S. eradication efforts.

They said the administration is poised to meet the target for adults 27 and older on July 4, U.S. Independence Day, but will fall short of Biden's goal for adults 18 and older.

"Our focus from the beginning has been continuing to redouble our efforts among demographics and groups where we need extra assistance," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

White House COVID-19 senior adviser Jeffrey Zients said it would likely take a few weeks beyond July 4 to meet Biden's target.

"The country has more work to do... particularly with 18- to 26-year-olds," Zients told reporters.

"The reality is many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them, and they've been less eager to get the shot."

The Delta variant is the greatest threat to the effort to eradicate COVID-19 within U.S. borders, U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a call with reporters.

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A woman receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination, at Jordan Downs in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Fauci said existing vaccines were effective against the new variant, which is more transmissible than the original variant.

"We have the tools, so let's use them and crush the outbreak," Fauci said.

The United States already has vaccinated 70% of adults age 30 and older, Zients said.

Fifteen of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., have delivered at least one shot to 70% of adults 18 and older.

The rate of U.S. vaccinations has increased by less than one percentage point over the past two weeks and would have to more than double over the next two weeks for the United States to hit Biden's target. read more

Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other top officials have deployed a campaign-style push encouraging more Americans to get shots in order to protect public health as well as reopen the economy and return the country to a path of normalcy.

Racial imbalances in vaccination rates, the Delta variant and the challenge of convincing young American adults they should protect themselves with the vaccine remain roadblocks.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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