Remarks by President Biden at an Event Commemorating the 50 Millionth COVID-19 Vaccine Shot
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
3:19 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all. Dr. Fauci, thanks for your leadership, thanks for being here.
Two weeks ago, I spent some time with you and Dr. Francis Collins — excuse me — the Director of the National Institute of Health, at NIH, and gave me a tour of the Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland. And it’s the place where our top scientists spend years researching and developing vaccines and treatments of all kinds of — for all kinds of viruses.
The brilliant team there made possible the rapid deployment and development of COVID-19 vaccines, and they’re truly remarkable. And this administration will follow the science to deliver more breakthroughs.
You now, we are doing that to beat COV- — COVID-19 and other diseases, like cancer — which is something that’s so personal to so many families, including me and Kamala’s and many of yours. We’ve asked Dr. Eric Lander, a renowned Harvard-MIT scientist, to serve as my science advisor and head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and co-lead the President’s Cou- — the Presidential Council on Advisory Science and Technology.
These are the White House offices that bring together the country’s top scientists to address our most pressing needs, and they’ll be part of the work to develop a DARPA-like advanced research effort on cancer and other diseases, just like we do DARPA in the Defense Department, which develops breakthrough projects to secure our national security.
And relatedly, I’m delighted to see five of the nation’s leading cancer centers are joining forces today to build on the work of the Cancer Moonshot I was able to do during the Obama-Biden administration to help break through silos and barriers in cancer research. We’re making progress.
There is so much we can do, so much progress within our reach. And that’s why I’m thankful to the folks here today for getting their vaccine shots: Gerald Bunn, who — and Corey Hamilton, both D.C. firefighters. I said to Corey, you know, that old expression, “God made man, and then he made a few firefighters.” Thank God we have them. And Linda — Linda Bussey is a manager at a Safeway grocery store in Bethesda. Victoria Legerwood Rivera, who is a local school counselor. And Elizabeth Galloway, who is a registered nurse who administered these shots.
And the more people get vaccinated, the faster we’re going to beat this pandemic. That’s why one of my first goals in office when I — just before I was sworn in, I indicated that my goal was to get 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days as President.
At first, critics said that goal was too ambitious; no one could do that. And then they said it was too small. But the bottom line, though, is that America will be the first country — perhaps the only one — to get that done.
And today, I’m here to report we’re halfway there: 50 million shots in just 37 days since I’ve become President. That’s weeks ahead of schedule, even with the setbacks we faced during the recent winter storms, which devastated millions of Midwestern — Midwestern cities, towns, and also the same in the South.
We’re moving in the right direction, though, despite the mess we inherited from the previous administration, which left us with no real plan to vaccinate all Americans. And every time we administer another 50 million shots, I’m going to use that milestone to report to the American people on our vaccination program and on our overall fight against this pandemic. The good and the bad, I’ll tell you; the success and the failures.
And here’s the deal — here’s the deal: The story of this vaccination campaign is like the story of everything hard and new America does: some confusion and setbacks at the start, and then if we do the right things, we have the right plan to get things moving. That’s what we’re seeing right now.
Weeks before I became President, the previous administration saw 6 million shots administered in the last week. This coming week, we will administer over 12 million shots, double the pace, in just six weeks that we’ve been in office.
Other milestones: We’ve increased vaccination distribution to states by 70 percent. Nearly 60 percent of people over the age of 75 have now received at least one shot. It was 14 percent six weeks ago. And close to 50 percent of people over the age of 65 have at least one shot now. It was 8 percent six weeks ago. It’s important because people over 65 account for 80 percent of all the COVID deaths.
Additionally, about 75 percent of the people who live in long-term facilities have gotten their first shot. And those cases are at the lowest level since reporting began in May.
Here’s how we’ve been doing it: It starts with increasing the supply. My team has worked very hard with vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, to ensure we have enough supply for all adult Americans by the end of July. When we discovered the vaccine manufacturers weren’t being prioritized when it came to securing supplies they needed to make the vaccine, we fixed the problem. I used the Defense Production Act to speed up the supply chain for key equipment, which has already helped increase vaccine production.
Last week, I toured the Pfizer facility — manufacturing facility in a plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s an incredible — it’s incredible the precision, the safety, the pride, and the sense of purpose everyone involved in that process and project has.
We’ve all seen the news about Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. The idea of a third safe and effective vaccine is very promising. The Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, is viewing the data and review recommendations from an outside committee of experts that will be meeting tomorrow.
Now, let me be clear: We are going to do this the right way. The FDA will decide on an emergency use authorization of a vaccine based on science, not due to any political pressure from me or anyone else. No outside factors.
What I will say to the American people is this: If — if the FDA approves the use of this new vaccine, we have a plan to roll it out as quickly as Johnson & Johnson can make it. We’ll use every conceivable way to expand manufacturing of the vaccine, and we’ll make even more rapid progress on overall vaccines in March.
I’ll have more to say about this in the days after the FDA review.
Look, we’ve been laser-focused on the greatest operational challenge this country has ever undertaken: administering shots in the arms of hundreds of millions of Americans. We’re increasing the number of vaccinators. What we found was, you may have the vaccine but not enough people put the vaccinate — vaccine in someone’s arm, like you just saw.
We brought back retired doctors and nurses. We’ve already deployed more than 1,500 medical personnel you see during national disasters, from the Federal Emergency — the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA; and we commissioned — our Commissioned Corps from the Department of Health and Human Services; and the Defense Department, including the National Guard — supplying vaccinators. We’re lining up thousands more to do the vaccinations.
We’re also setting up more places for people to get vaccinated. As of today, we provided $3.8 billion to states, territories, and tribes to create hundreds of new vaccination centers and ramp up the existing ones that are there already; working with governors across the country, in red and blue states, to bolster their efforts to stand up hundreds of vaccination centers — from stadiums, to community centers, houses of worship, large parking lots.
We’re providing personnel and equipment, and covering the costs for the states, including for the use of their National Guard, which have been — they’re incredible.
Today, Jill and I — or I should say, tomorrow, Jill and I will travel to Houston, Texas, to tour one of the first federal mass vaccination centers and to thank everyone involved.
This is an example of the kind of partnership between federal, state, and local governments, and public and private partners, that’s going to get this job done.
We also sent millions of vaccines to thousands of local pharmacies all across America to make it easier for folks to get the vaccine shot like they would their flu shot — going to a familiar place, familiar folks that they can trust and know to get the shot.
And for folks who didn’t live near — don’t live near a vaccination center or a pharmacy, we’re deploying mobile units. These are special vehicles and pop-up clinics that meet folks where they live and where they don’t have transportation to get the shots — to get to the places to get the shots.
We’ve also started to send vaccines directly to community health centers to help the hard — the hard-to-reach folks in cities and small towns, in rural communities; in black, Latino, Native American communities that have higher rates of COVID infections and deaths than any other groups.
As a result of these round-the-clock efforts, in five weeks, America has administered the most shots of any country in the world — any country in the world — with among the highest percentage of population fully vaccinated. That’s progress we promised.
And it’s also true that while COVID-19 vaccinations are up, COVID cases and hospitalizations are coming down. But I need to be honest with you: Cases and hospitalizations could go back up with new variants as they emerge.
So I want to make something really very clear: This is not a time to relax. We must keep washing our hands, stay socially distanced, and for God’s sake — for God’s sake, wear a mask.
Some of our progress in this fight is because so many Americans are stepping up and doing those things. And the worst thing we could do now is let our guard down.
Of course, it’s my hope to come back in the next — next report that we’ve — after we’ve done another 50 million — another 50 million shots before the end of my first 100 days.
But here’s the critical point. As hard as it is now to believe, we’re going to hit a phase in this effort, maybe as late as April or May, where many predict that instead of long lines of people waiting to get a shot, we’ll face a very different scenario: We’ll have the vaccine waiting. We’ll have ramped up vaccine supplies. We’ll have administrative — folks to administer the shots to the most of the people who aren’t eager to get the shots. At least that’s been the prediction.
I don’t think — I think — I don’t think it’s going happen; I think the more people see other people getting the shots, it’s going to build confidence.
But, you know, at the same time, there are people who live in hard-to-reach areas who can’t get them. And there are folks who are hesitant to take the shot in the first place. And we all know there’s a history in this country of subjecting certain communities to terrible medical and scientific abuse.
But if there is one message that needs to cut through, it’s this: The vaccines are safe and effective. And I believe as you see your neighbor, your husband, your wife, your son, your daughter getting it, that you will be much more inclined to get it.
Listen to Dr. Fauci. Listen to the scientists who developed these vaccines, and the extensive and rigorous review that it went through. I did. I took my shots publicly to demonstrate to the American people that it’s safe and effective.
But the time is coming, maybe 60 to 90 days, when the supply is adequate but not enough people can access the shots or don’t want them. To address that challenge, we’re going to launch a massive campaign to educate people about vaccines: that they are safe and effective, and where to go to get those shots in the first place. And we’re going to bring together leaders of all segments of our society to educate and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated.
So I hope the Senate will soon confirm a key leader of that effort, my nominee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, who did so well in his hearing this week.
And I hope Congress passes the American Rescue Plan, which I’ve been pushing, which provides funds for everything we need to do to beat this pandemic and to get the economy going again.
Now, critics say the plan is too big, that it costs too much. But let me ask a rhetorical question: What would you have me cut? What would you have me cut out? On vaccines alone, if we don’t invest 20 million — billion dollars to vaccinate the nation — doesn’t that make sense? Or $160 billion in total towards the pandemic for testing, to protective gear, to vaccine production and distribution?
I’m ready to hear any ideas on what will make the American Rescue Plan better, stronger, and effective. But we’ll have to answer who will get helped and who will get hurt.
I want to close with this: The question I ask — I’m asked most often is, “When will things get back to normal?” My answer is always honest and straightforward. I can’t give you a date. I can only promise that we’ll work as hard as we can to make that day come as soon as possible.
While things are improving, and we’re going from a mess we inherited to moving in the right direction, at significant speed, this is not a victory lap. This — everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day, when everything gets back to normal, depends on all of us. It depends on Congress passing the American Recovery Act — research plan — recovery plan. And also for us to remain vigilant, to look out for one another.
I’ve said it before: Wash your hands. Stay socially distanced. Wear a mask. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. When your friend or neighbor or loved one is eligible, encourage them to get vaccinated.
And when all — above all, remember: We can do this. This is the United States of America. There is nothing we can’t do when we do it together. So it’s not over yet, but we’re getting close. And God willing, if we do all we know we have to do, we’re going to beat this; beat it sooner than later.
And may God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your time.
3:36 P.M. EST