FACT CHECK: Fact Checking Biden’s Claims About COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

Anna Mock | Fact Check Reporter

President Joe Biden claimed in Jan. 30 remarks that less than 2 million Americans were vaccinated when he took office and 270 million Americans are vaccinated today. 

Verdict: Unsubstantiated

Biden did not clarify if the numbers reflect those who have been fully vaccinated or have received only one dose. 2 million Americans were fully vaccinated when he took office, and 270 million people have received at least one dose today.

Fact Check:

Biden made claims about vaccination rates at a campaign reception in Jupiter, Florida on Jan. 30.

“Look how far we’ve come. We vaccinated the vast bulk of America,” Biden said. “We got through that pandemic with less than 200 million — with less than 2 million people being vaccinated when I came to office. Today, 720 (270) million Americans have gotten COVID vaccine.”

This claim is missing context, as Biden does not define vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means “two weeks after receiving the second dose in a two dose COVID-19 vaccine series or (2) two weeks after receiving a single dose COVID-19 vaccine,” according to the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

A Jan. 20, 2021 CNN report said 13.6 million Americans had received COVID-19 vaccines at the time, 2 million of which were fully vaccinated. The two million number in Biden’s claim appears to be referencing this number. 

Biden’s claim of 270 million Americans being vaccinated doesn’t state whether he’s referring to individuals who are fully vaccinated or received one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Data from USA Facts shows that today, at least 270 million people have received one dose and 230 million are considered fully vaccinated. 

“It was 2.1 M fully vaccinated but that is not a fair way to look at it because the roll out just begun in December,” Amesh Adalja, assistant professor at John Hopkins School of Public Health, told Check Your Fact in an email. “Tens of millions of doses have been given but fully vaccinated with mRNA vaccinations required 2 doses separated by 3-4 weeks.”

Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, told Check Your Fact that 270 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated, citing a May 2023 source from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that 270,227,181 people, or 81.4 percent of the population, had received at least one dose.

He added that he was unsure about the data from January 2021, but that the numbers “are likely to be low because vaccination was just starting at that point.” (RELATED: No, Donald Trump Did Not Endorse Joe Biden For Reelection)

Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine, said Biden’s claim “sounds about right.” He directed Check Your Fact to a study from the Commonwealth Fund from December 2022 that found the U.S. had administered over 655 million doses at the time, accounting for 80 percent of the population. The study also estimated that “the COVID-19 vaccination program in the U.S. prevented more than 18.5 million additional hospitalizations and 3.2 million additional deaths” between December 2020 and November 2022.

Jeffrey E. Korte, professor of Epidemiology at the Medical University of South Carolina, directed Check Your Fact via email to a CDC graph showing vaccination by state.

“It looks like the CDC is no longer posting updated numbers, but as of September 2023, there were 270,227,181 Americans who received at least one dose,” Korte said. “Based on the CDC data, as of January 20, 2021 across the 50 states there were 18,710,700 people who had received at least one shot. If you look at the data for having completed the primary vaccine series, there were 3,447,134 people who had completed the COVID vaccination series.” 

Check Your Fact reached out to the Biden campaign for comment.

Anna Mock

Fact Check Reporter