Biden says number of unvaccinated Americans 'unacceptably high,' insists mandates 'working'

Biden says US 'in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19'

President Biden on Thursday said the number of unvaccinated Americans still remains "unacceptably high," but insisted that his administration's vaccine requirements for the federal workforce and private employers are "working" to ensure more individuals receive shots to protect against COVID-19

During remarks from the White House Thursday, the president touted his administration's "progress" in the "fight against the virus." 

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"We're making progress nationally. Daily cases are down 47%, hospitalizations are down 38% over the past six weeks," Biden said. "Over the past two weeks, most of the country has improved as well. Case rates are declining in 39 states and hospital rates declining in 38 states."

The president, though, said there "is still an unacceptably high number of unvaccinated people." 

"Now's not the time to let up. We have a lot more to do," the president said, adding that the U.S. is "in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19." 

President Joe Biden delivers an update on the COVID-19 response and vaccination program, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden delivers an update on the COVID-19 response and vaccination program, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

"First, we have to do more to vaccinate 66 million unvaccinated people in America," he said. "It's essential." 

The president went on to tout the vaccine requirements he rolled out over the summer. Biden signed an executive order last month requiring that all workers in the Executive Branch be vaccinated against COVID-19. Biden also signed an order to require businesses with more than 100 workers to mandate coronavirus vaccinations. 

"They're working," he said. "The Labor Department is going to soon be issuing an emergency rule for companies with 100 or more employees to implement vaccination requirements." 

He added: "Every day we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements and the mounting data shows that they work." 

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Biden said that businesses and organizations implementing requirements are seeing vaccination rates "rise by an average of 20% or more, to well over 90% of the number of employees vaccinated." 

"Let's be clear, vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us," the president said. "That's why we continue to battle the misinformation that's out there, and companies and communities are setting up. They're stepping up as well to combat these misinformation.