US President Joe Biden pledged to have 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines administered by the end of his first 100 days in office at his first formal news conference since his inauguration in January. Watch FRANCE 24's live coverage here.
Biden's goal seems ambitious, but it actually amounts to a continuation of the country's existing pace of vaccinations through the end of month. The US is now averaging about 2.5 million doses per day.
A higher vaccination rate seems achievable. Over the next month, two of the bottlenecks to getting Americans vaccinated are set to be lifted. The US supply of vaccines is on track to increase and states are lifting eligibility requirements for people to get the shots.
The "fundamental problem is giving people piece of mind" amid a Covid-19 pandemic that has caused more than 500,000 deaths, Biden said.
Biden is the first president in four decades to reach this point in his term without having conducted such a question-and-answer session. The president is set to meet with reporters for the nationally televised afternoon event in the East Room.
Biden has been on pace with his predecessors in taking questions from the press in other formats. But he tends to field just one or two informal inquiries at a time, usually in a hurried setting at the end of an event or in front of a whirring helicopter.
A pair of mass shootings, rising international tensions, signs of divisions within the Democratic Party, new North Korean missile tests and a large increase in numbers of migrants crossing the USA's southern border are all confronting a West Wing known for its tight message discipline.
When asked about the growing influx of migrants, Biden said that the "way to deal with this problem" is to "deal with the root causes of why people are leaving" – as well as emphasising that the US is sending back the "vast majority" of people coming across the Mexican border.
Biden said that "all" illegal immigrants should be "going back" except for children, and that his administration is "in negotiations" with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to encourage the US's southern neighbour to take more people back.
As debate rages over the Senate filibuster – a major source of the US's political gridlock – Biden said that "it is being abused" and reiterated his call for bringing back the so-called "talking filibuster", in which Senators have to stand and talk for as long as it takes to block a bill instead of being able to do so with the mere threat of the filibuster.
Biden said he has "never been particularly poor in getting things done in the US Senate" – after serving in the upper chamber from 1973 to 2009 – and that "if there is complete lockdown and chaos in the Senate as a result of the filibuster, we'll have to go beyond what I talked about".
Pressure had mounted on Biden to hold such a formal session, which allows reporters to have an extended back-and-forth with the president. Critics have pointed to the delay to suggest that the 78-year-old president's staff were shielding him.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)