Joe Biden spent most of last year promising that the federal government would do better fighting the coronavirus pandemic if he were president than it did under Donald Trump. Biden has been in office only a week, and he has, indeed, begun shaping a much-needed national response, but it’s already time for him to make adjustments — or the death toll from the virus will probably near 600,000 by May.

Just days after Biden was sworn in, we learned about new SARS-Cov-2 variants from Britain, South Africa and Brazil that threaten to accelerate transmission once again in the United States and globally. That will probably mean new confirmed covid-19 cases will swing back upward after our modest recent decline. Additional evidence indicates that the covid-19-associated case-fatality rates from these new variants also may increase. The latest projections from the IHME indicate that we could hit 569,000 American deaths from the virus by May 1.

This looming catastrophe accelerates pressures to vaccinate the American people before the variants consume us. Initially, Biden committed to vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office, but now we know that won’t be sufficient. To interrupt virus transmission, we must fully immunize three-quarters of the U.S. population as soon as possible, preferably by the summer at the latest. That means roughly 500 million doses in five months — 100 million immunizations each month, not in 100 days. Biden said Monday that he might lift his goal to 1.5 million vaccines a day instead of 1 million, but that won’t be enough: We need to be vaccinating 3 million people every day.

Getting to 500 million immunizations — half a billion! — means that we must expand vaccination hubs beyond the pharmacy and hospital chains and start opening major hubs at community centers and outdoor sports arenas. The Biden administration has already articulated this. And it’s true that Biden’s covid policy has started well: There is a road map for a national response to the pandemic with aspirational goals in mind. This reverses the tragic insistence by the Trump administration to make the states lead when they never had that capacity. The new administration is being forthright, and we will never see again the terrible White House coronavirus task force disinformation campaign of 2020 that discredited masks and tried attributing covid-19 deaths to other causes.

But these added sites and philosophical shifts also won’t be sufficient. We need more vaccines, and I do not see how giving 500 million shots to Americans by this summer will be met with the current projections for scaling production of the two mRNA vaccines or even those in addition to the Johnson & Johnson adenovirus vaccine that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize for emergency use soon.

We also need the AstraZeneca-Oxford (AzOx) adenovirus vaccine, which has been authorized in Argentina, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, India, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Britain. The United States has delayed emergency use authorization even though it has already purchased a 300 million-dose guarantee from the company. On Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will rule on the AzOx vaccine. The EMA has been reviewing the company’s dossier since Jan. 12. Both our FDA and the EMA are considered the world’s two premier regulatory agencies. If the EMA rules in favor of releasing the AzOx vaccine, I believe we have no choice but to do the same to quickly expand our vaccine supply.

We are in a race against the rise of new variants and must grow our national vaccination capacity by increasing immunization sites and our vaccine supply. Rapidly vaccinating the U.S. population in the coming weeks would produce multiple benefits: It would reduce the number of Americans becoming sick from covid-19 and entering hospitals and ICUs, obviously. But it would also reduce the amount of virus circulating and potentially halt virus transmission, including the new variants. In contrast, allowing large segments of the American people to go unvaccinated for extended periods would allow variants like the ones from Britain, South Africa or Brazil to become dominant — or even leave space for new and as-yet-unknown ones that could bypass the antibodies that result from existing vaccines.

Unless the European regulators find significant concerns — which is a possibility — we need to move quickly and begin releasing our AzOx vaccine stockpiles in February. Hitting 600,000 American deaths later this year would have been viewed as an unacceptable and catastrophic failure by the Trump administration. It would also be an unacceptable and catastrophic failure by the Biden administration.

Read more: