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President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during a primetime address from the White House on March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Harnik) President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during a primetime address from the White House on March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Harnik)

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic during a primetime address from the White House on March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Harnik)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy March 12, 2021

No, Biden didn’t promote ‘mandatory’ COVID-19 vaccines in primetime address

If Your Time is short

  • In a March 11 address to the nation, President Joe Biden said the White House would direct state, local and tribal governments to make all American adults eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. He did not say vaccines would be mandatory.

  • Biden previously said he would not institute a federal vaccine requirement. In any case, the federal government’s authority to do so is limited.

The White House will direct state, local and tribal governments to make all American adults eligible to register for COVID-19 vaccines by May 1, President Joe Biden announced March 11.

In a primetime address delivered hours after he signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law, Biden said his goal is to make small-group gatherings possible by July 4. He encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and follow public health guidelines to make that happen.

But the president did not say he would mandate that everybody get the vaccine, despite what one conservative commentator said in a Facebook live video reacting to the address.

"Now he is promoting, what sounds like to me, as mandatory vaccines for everybody, and then we could maybe celebrate the Fourth of July in small groups," David J. Harris Jr., a supporter of former President Donald Trump, said before showing clips from Biden’s address.

The video, which is accompanied by text directing people to support My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Harris Jr. did not respond to a request for comment sent via his Facebook page. But his video distorts what Biden said about scaling up vaccine availability. 

Here’s what Biden said about making all Americans eligible to sign up for vaccines:

"Tonight, I'm announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults, people 18 and over, eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1. Let me say that again. All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. That's much earlier than expected. Let me be clear, that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to have that shot immediately, but it means you’ll be able to get in line beginning May 1. Every adult will be eligible to get their shot."

Biden promised a new website to help people find vaccines near them, and he said additional guidance would be coming on what vaccinated people can and can’t do.

Then, he urged "every American to do their part" to "beat this virus," saying:

"I need you to get vaccinated when it's your turn and when you can find an opportunity, and to help your family, your friends, your neighbors get vaccinated, as well. Because here's the point. If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4th, there's a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together."

Biden said the shots are safe, noting that he and Vice President Kamala Harris got theirs in front of cameras. "We need everyone to get vaccinated," he said.

But the president never said he was mandating that everyone get a vaccine.

The federal government’s ability to impose vaccination requirements is limited, although states have some authority to do so, PolitiFact previously reported. Biden, like Trump before him, has not announced plans to make the COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.

"No, I don’t think it should be mandatory," Biden said in December. "I wouldn’t demand it to be mandatory, but I would do everything in my power."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who Biden implored Americans to "listen to" during his address, has also said he does not support mandating vaccines, although he told Newsweek he expects certain institutions like hospitals to require vaccinations. 

The White House and Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said Biden promoted "mandatory vaccines for everybody" in his March 11 address.

That’s inaccurate. In his address, Biden said the White House would direct state, local and tribal governments to make all American adults eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. He urged Americans to get the vaccines, but he did not make them mandatory.

Biden previously said he would not institute a federal vaccine requirement. In any case, the federal government’s authority to do so is limited.

We rate this Facebook post False.

Our Sources

David J. Harris Jr. on Facebook (archived), March 11, 2021

Various searches on Factba.se, accessed March 12, 2021

The Washington Post, "Full transcript of President Biden’s address to the nation Watch Biden's full prime-time address on the coronavirus pandemic," March 11, 2021

CNBC Television on YouTube, "President Joe Biden addresses nation on first anniversary of Covid shutdown," March 11, 2021

STAT News, "Biden will compel states to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1," March 11, 2021

Newsweek, "Dr. Fauci on Mandatory COVID Vaccines: 'Everything Will Be on the Table,'" Jan. 1, 2021

PolitiFact, "Social media post falsely claims a federal law would require vaccination against COVID-19," Dec. 11, 2020

PolitiFact, 'No, Democrats aren’t pushing microchips to fight coronavirus," April 23, 2020

David J. Harris Jr. on Facebook (archived), March 11, 2021

Various searches on Factba.se, accessed March 12, 2021

The Washington Post, "Full transcript of President Biden’s address to the nation Watch Biden's full prime-time address on the coronavirus pandemic," March 11, 2021

CNBC Television on YouTube, "President Joe Biden addresses nation on first anniversary of Covid shutdown," March 11, 2021

STAT News, "Biden will compel states to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1," March 11, 2021

Newsweek, "Dr. Fauci on Mandatory COVID Vaccines: 'Everything Will Be on the Table,'" Jan. 1, 2021

PolitiFact, "Social media post falsely claims a federal law would require vaccination against COVID-19," Dec. 11, 2020

PolitiFact, 'No, Democrats aren’t pushing microchips to fight coronavirus," April 23, 2020

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No, Biden didn’t promote ‘mandatory’ COVID-19 vaccines in primetime address

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