Remarks by President Biden on the COVID-19 Response and the Vaccination Program
May 04, 2021
State Dining Room
2:35 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today, two months until July 4th, I'm here to report that we're β we're in our vaccination program β where we are and what comes next in an effort to get this country back closer to normal.
And first: Where are we? Well, as everyone knows, I promised that we'd administer 100 million shots in my first 100 days. After we met that goal, we doubled it to a β a historic 200 million shots. By the time we reached 100 days last week, we had shattered that mark with over 220 million shots in arms.
And as we stand here today, almost 150 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. Over 105 million Americans are fully vaccinated. And among our most vulnerable population β seniors β we are nearing 85 percent of those who have gotten their first shot. Seventy percent of the seniors are now fully vaccinated. It's a dramatic turnaround from where we were in January, when less than 2 percent of adults and less than 1 percent of seniors were fully vaccinated.
Not only that, cases are down in 40 states these past two weeks. Deaths are down dramatically since January β down over 80 percent among seniors, which includes a drop among Hispanics of 80 percent and among African Americans of 70 percent of seniors.
There are tens of thousands of Americans alive today because β who would not be alive otherwise were they not β had access to rapid vaccination program. Moms and dads, sisters and brothers, grandparents, neighbors, old friends β they're around now, and God β thank God for that.
Now, where do we go from here? Well, as we anticipated, the pace of vaccinations is slowing now that the majority of American adults have already gotten their first shot. But we are still vaccinating millions of Americans every day.
In fact, in the last 10 days, 1 out of every 10 adult Americans got a shot. But, soon, we'll have reached the adults who are most eager to get vaccinated, and, at that point, this effort will shift to a new phase, which is what I want to talk about today.
Our new phase will focus on three areas. First, kids, children between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age. They are not yet eligible for a vaccine. The FDA's scientists are currently reviewing the data to decide if β if and when to authorize that age range for vaccinations. The FDA β and the FDA alone β will make that decision.
But today, I want American parents to know that if that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately βimmediately move to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants it's okay.
Now, most Americans have a vaccination site about as close as their house is near to a neighborhood school. We're also going to slip [sic] vaccines directly to pediatricians β ship them to pediatricians during the following weeks. So parents and their children can talk to their family doctor about it and get the shot from a provider they trust the most β easy, fast, and free.
And if teens are on the move this summer, they can get their first shot in one place and the second shot elsewhere. We know that adolescents are at risk from COVID-19. Though serious illness at that age range is rare, they can still get sick and spread the virus to others.
So, my hope is that if the vaccine is authorized, parents will take advantage of it and get their kids vaccinated.
The second area of focus is making it more convenient for everyone to get a vaccine. We know that many adults have not been vaccinated because they have found it too confusing or too difficult or too inconvenient to get a shot.
So for those having trouble finding a location or making an appointment, we're going to make it easier than ever. We have formally launched a simple website where you can find a vaccination location closest to you. That site is: Vaccines.gov. Let me say it again: Vaccines.gov. Go there now, find a location to get the shot, and make an appointment.
Also today, if you prefer texting, we have another easy way to get the shot. Text your β your ZIP code to the following number: 438829. Your ZIP code to that number: 438829. And you will get a text back with the location that is nearest to you with vaccines in stock right then and there. Yes, you can text your ZIP code right now to 438829 and get texted back within minutes with the place that's nearest to you to get a vaccination that are available immediately.
So send this to your kids, your grandkids, your friends who have not been vaccinated yet.
Now, I know some people find making an appointment in advance inconvenient. So, starting this week, we are also going to direct all federal pharmacy partners to begin to provide walk-in hours. You'll soon be able to get vaccinated without an appointment at the vast majority of our 40,000 pharmacy locations across the country.
We also are encouraging our state and local partners to have a walk-in ability as well to the sites that they run.
And beginning next week, we'll be shipping new allocations of vaccine to rural health clinics, getting more vaccines to more rural clinics so Americans who don't live near one of the 75,000 vaccination sites will have new options that may be closer β may be closer than anything they thought.
We know that vaccination rates are lower in rural areas, and that's why we're going to get vaccines closer than ever to rural residents.
Also, as we wind down the large mass vaccination sites, we will move towards smaller locations even more convenient to the unvaccinated. So, for those who don't want to drive the distance to a large vaccination site, we will have sites β smaller sites β closer to the unvaccinated.
And for the first 100 days, our goal will be to make it possible for people to come and get vaccinated, and we'll succeed beyond anyone's expectations, I believe.
Now we are going to have to bring the vaccine to people who are less eager. So we also know that there are millions of Americans who just need a little bit of encouragement to get the shot.
I recently called on employers to do their part by offering paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and opening up a tax credit program that reimburses the businesses for the cost of giving the employee the time off to get vaccinated. And I want to thank the 1,000 businesses that have stepped up so far.
We're also going to roll out new partnerships with the business community. We're working with major businesses, like grocery stores, to provide special deals like discounts to shoppers who come to their stores to get vaccinated. The β and it works both ways. Bring them in to get vaccinated, but when they're in, they will get discounts to purchase goods in that store.
Further, we're working with major sports leagues to launch special promotions for their fans β things like ticket giveaways, in-stadium vaccination programs, discounts on merchandise, and other creative ways to make it easier and more fun to get vaccinated. Now, I'm making it sound more fun to get vaccinated, but it doesn't hurt to get vaccinated. I'm not saying it's fun, but they'll be able to have other things available to them besides being protected from the virus.
Let me repeat: We're going to make it easier than ever to get vaccinated. Visit vaccines.gum[gov] β .gov β vaccines.gum [gov] β or text to β your β text your ZIP Code to: 438829 β 438829. Walk into your local pharmacy without an appointment. Go to the doctor or a local health clinic. It's free. It's nearby. Every adult is eligible. You know, go get the shot as soon as you can.
The third area of our focus is Americans who still aren't sure they want to get vaccinated. We've seen the confidence in vaccines rise steadily these past few months among virtually every segment of the population.
And as more and more Americans see their friends and family get vaccinated, they're making the choice to get vaccinated themselves. Democrats and Republicans, progressives, conservatives β people of all persuasions β are getting vaccinated.
In fact β the fact is that nearly 85 percent of seniors have had at least one vaccination shot, and the wide cross-section of the nation trust the vaccine regardless of race or ideology.
Now we need to make that same progress for those under 65 years of age. There are a lot of younger people, especially those in their 20s and 30s, who believe they don't need it.
Well, I want to be absolutely clear: You do need to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it also reduces the risk that you give the virus to somebody else. It could save your life or the lives of people you love.
We're still losing hundreds of Americans under 65 years of age every week, and many more are getting seriously ill from long stretches of the time.
Look, even if your chance β even if your chance of getting seriously ill is low, why take the risk when you have a safe, free, and convenient way to prevent it?
Additionally, we know that some people may need more information to decide whether to get the vaccine. There is now plenty of information for people to do their homework with β in nearly 150 million Americans living β in fact, with 150 million Americans that are living now have gotten the vaccine.
Talk to someone you trust like your physician or your pharmacist or people who have already been vaccinated. Talk to your faith leaders or others in your community that you trust. Look to those people to help answer your questions.
I want to be clear. I've been saying this a long time, but I really believe it: This is not a Democrat or a Republican issue.
The science behind the vaccines has been under development for decades. Two of our vaccines were authorized under prior administrations β Republican administrations. My administration β a Democratic administration β is doing the work to get hundreds of millions of shots in arms. While we may not always agree on everything, this is one thing people across the political spectrum can agree on.
So, I want to thank the prominent conservatives, like Mitch McConnell, and a large group of Republican members of Congress who have β who have medical training, who have advanced getting vaccinated.
I also want to thank the 105 million Americans of every background who are fully protected from one of the deadliest pandemics in our history.
You know, there's a lot of misinformation out there. But there's one fact I want every American to know: People who are not fully vaccinated can still die every day from COVID-19. Look at the folks in your community who have gotten vaccinated and are getting back to living their lives β their full lives. Look at the grandparents united with their grandchildren, the friends getting together again. This is your choice. It's life and death.
And I hope everyone knows within themselves, it makes the choice that will β it's going to help them and their loved ones be safe, get our businesses open again, and get us back to normal.
Again, in the next two months, our focus is going to be on three groups: kids between 12 and 15 who are awaiting potential FDA authorization to get a shot; two, adults who have had trouble locating a place to get a shot or who just haven't gotten around to it; and three, those who need more convincing β be convinced of the necessity of getting the vaccine.
As we turn to this new phase, we're also setting a new goal. Two months from today β two months from today, families across the country are going to celebrate the Fourth of July. Our goal by July 4th is to have 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated.
That means giving close to 100 million shots β some first shots, others second shots β over the next 60 days. Of course, Americans can still get shots after July 4th, but no one should wait. And let's try to hit that 70 percent mark at least with one shot before that day. It's another huge goal.
And as you may remember, we were initially focused on getting enough vaccines for every adult. Well, we did that. We have enough vaccines. Now that we have the vaccine supply, we're focused on convincing even more Americans to show up and get the vaccine that is available to them.
If we succeed in this effort, as we did with the last, then Americans will have taken a serious step towards a return to normal: That's July 4th.
But we're not there yet. That's why I'm asking people to continue to follow the CCD guide- β CDC guidelines as we work to get more β more people vaccinated.
And to clear up any confusion, the good news is that, last week, the CDC said that vaccinated people do not need to wear their masks outside unless they're at very crowded settings like a sporting event.
And if we can continue to drive vaccinations up and caseloads down, we'll need our masks even less and less. I know it will take time to get everyone back to β everything back to normal. You know, we're all going to have to be patient with one another. Masks have needlessly divided this country. Masking as directed is a patriotic duty, but so too is treating each other with respect and patience.
One final point: As I said in my address to Congress last week, Congress [America] is going to be "the arsenal" for fighting COVID-19, just like we were for β the arsenal for democracy in World War Two β not only because it will have kept us safe, but because of β it's who we are.
Well, we're β we've already committed to work to send 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries, starting this month and into June. That means of all the vaccines we've produced for the United States at that time, we'll have given about 10 percent to the rest of the world. It's a significant humanitarian commitment, in addition to our funding of COVAX. And I'll have more to say about that soon.
I'll conclude with this: The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter. So Americans have sacrificed and served to make this progress possible, showing the best of who we are as a people. We need you β we need you to bring it home. Get vaccinated.
In two months, let's celebrate our independence as a nation, and our independence of this virus. We can do this. We will do this.
Thank you all. May God bless you. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, (inaudible) to help India?
Q Mr. President, how much harder will this next phase be for the vaccination campaign?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm sorry. You were both speaking. One at a time.
Q Mr. President, where are you sending the AstraZeneca doses first? What will be the criteria? Countries like India or Brazil that needs the most, or would it be to β
THE PRESIDENT: We're helping Brazil β we're helping India significantly. I spoke to Prime Minister Modi. What he needs most is he needs the material and the parts to be able to have his machines that can make the vaccine work. We're sending them that. We're sending them oxygen. We're sending them a lot of the precursors. So, we're doing a lot for India.
With regard β
Q How about Brazil?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish. With regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which we had, we have sent that vaccine to Canada and to Mexico. And there are other countries that we're talking to now. As a matter of fact, I talked to a head of state today.
I'm not prepared to announce who else we'll be β we'll be giving the vaccine to. But we are going to, by the Fourth of July, have sent about 10 percent of what we have to other nations, including some of the ones you mentioned.
Q How much harder will this next phase be for the administration? How much harder compared to the first 100 days?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, in one sense, it's easier in that it's up to convincing the American people rather than guaranteeing them we'd have the supply for them. So that was really hard. It was really hard to get from β you know, as that old expression, 0 to 60 miles an hour β to β it was get- β very hard to get from a very low count to 600 million vaccines, and then set up all of the logistics.
But I think what's going to happen β it's my prayer β that more and more people who get vaccinated are going to be listening to people who they love and β and are around, and they're going to say, "Why don't you just go ahead and do it?" And there's some evidence β we still had a good dose of vaccine being administered the last two weeks, and it's still moving.
But we know we're going to get to a place where the doubters exist or the people who just are β I don't want to say "lazy" β just not sure how to get to where they want to go. It's going to be hard. So, we're going to keep at it. We're going to keep at it.
And, I think, at the end of the day, most people will be convinced by the fact that their failure to get the vaccine may cause other people to get sick and maybe die. And β
Q Mr. President, if this phase β
THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish here. Okay? I promise I'll get to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay?
And so, it's β in one sense, it's harder β I mean, it's easier because I don't have to put together this massive logistical effort. But in the other sense, it's harder; it's beyond my personal control. I could β not "control" β but I could arrange and make sure those other things happened if we did it well, and I think we did. But it's going to be harder.
Q Thank you. If this phase is not successful, are there any circumstances under which you would require the vaccine for people to do certain things, like travel? And, if not, what more can you do beyond this?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not going to β you know, I'm one of these guys who thinks β thinks positively and not negatively. So, there's more that we can do. One of the things we can do is we can continue to produce more of the vaccine, work harder to get it available to more people, and export a lot of that to help.
Secondly, whether we're going to β I think that we're going to continue to β I don't think β we're going to continue to try to bring in β in, effectively, spokespersons who represent communities that, in fact, people listen to. And it's going to get more granular, I think, rather than large.
The likelihood of us being able to get, you know, 100,000 vaccinations in a week at a major site is getting harder and harder. There's β those people desperately wanted to get the vaccine.
So, we'll β I think we're going to make some real progress here. We'll see. But we're going to keep at it.
Q Can you say whether you've spoken β can you say whether you've spoken to your Trade Representative?
THE PRESIDENT: Say it again?
Q Can you say whether you've spoken to your Trade Representative yet, Katherine Tai, about the issue of issuing waivers on vaccine patents? Is that something you would support?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're going to decide that as we go along. I haven't made that decision yet.
Q Would you consider ordering more doses from Pfizer and Moderna?
THE PRESIDENT: We are.
Q You've already ordered 100 million more from each. Would you order, additionally, on top of that?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is: We're going to β as long as there is a problem anywhere in the world β even if we solve it here β we're going to move as quickly as we can to get as many doses of Moderna and Pfizer as possibly can be produced, and export those around the world.
Yes, ma'am. This is the last question.
Q Mr. President, thank you. Are you planning to meet President Putin during your trip β your upcoming trip in Europe? Is there a meeting that you're planning to have with him?
THE PRESIDENT: With who?
Q With President Putin.
THE PRESIDENT: That is my hope and expectation. We're working on it.
Q A follow-up, Mr. President β
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q Mr. President, why can't you go higher for vaccinations? The U.S. is currently administering about a million first doses per day. Thirty-five million β you'd need about thirty-five million new people to hit 70 percent. Why not set that target for 75 percent or 80 percent of the public?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'd like to get it at 100 percent. But I think, realistically, we can get to that place between now and July 4th.
And by the way, it's not like July 4th, the doors close. It's just β I picked July 4th to try to get to a place where we get back closer to normal. And so β we're going to be vaccinating people into next fall. It's not going to β this is not going to β something that, all of a sudden, July 4th, we're β we're going to just declare it's over.
Thank you so much.
2:58 P.M. EDT
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