Remarks by President Biden at Event with the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck
South Court Auditorium
3:43 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I want to thank you both for those words. You know, you and I knew one another when I wasn’t a President and you weren’t a chairman.
MR. FRAZIER: Right. (Laughs.)
THE PRESIDENT: We’d ride back and forth on Amtrak. You lived in Philadelphia; I was commuting to Wilmington. It’s good to see you both here. And thank both of you for your kind words.
And I want to thank the scientists and researchers at Johnson & Johnson for the literal heroic effort that began when COVID-19 first spread and led to the safe and effective vaccine that are now being co-produced.
Today, we’re seeing two health companies — competitors — each with over 130 years of experience, coming together to help write a more hopeful chapter in our battle against COVID-19. I just had an opportunity to meet with both of these CEOs and with their senior operating officers, and to hear about the work they’re doing together to produce vaccine substitute [substance] and accelerate what they call to — to take it to full finish [fill finish].
You know, what’s clear is this is a historic, nearly unprecedented collaboration. During World War Two, one of the country’s slogans was “We are all in this together.” “We are all in this together.” And companies took that slogan to heart. For example, when one automaker didn’t have the capacity to build enough jeeps, so a competitor stepped in to help. Competing airline makers teamed up, and they produced parts for each other and gave the American pilots, as a consequence of that, control of the skies.
Today, we’re seeing the same type of collaboration when it comes to getting this virus under control. I said we ought to treat this like a war. So, I want to thank the two companies for showing how we can come together to defeat this virus by putting patriotism and public health first. And I mean that literally — putting patriotism and public health first.
Your companies have been working closely with a man you’ve both privately, on the way over, bragged about: Jeff Zients. Jeff is in the front row here. I want to thank you, Jeff, and the entire COVID team you put together for the coordination of our COVID-19 response, and Dr. David Kessler and his team at the Department of Health and Human Services.
You know, when we came into office, we began working with the team at J&J to accelerate and add capacity to their manufacturing and production efforts. And it quickly became clear that Merck — one of the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers — was in a position to be the partner we needed in this effort — in this wartime effort.
I have not hesitated to use my power under the Defense Production Act to expedite critical materials in vaccine production, such as equipment, machinery, and supplies. And it’s not just Johnson & Johnson and Merck; Pfizer and Moderna also worked closely with us to help speed up the delivery of millions of more doses.
The result is that we’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every American adult by the end of May — months earlier than anyone expected. And today, I am directing Jeff and my HHS team to produce an additional 100 million doses and purchase another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. I’m doing this because, in this wartime efforts, we need maximum flexibility. There is always a chance that we’ll encounter unexpected challenges or we’ll — there will be a new need for a vaccine effort — or vaccination effort.
A lot can happen, a lot can change, and we need to be prepared. And, of course, we need to match the miracle of science and the skill of manufacturing with the massive logistical undertaking of vaccinating over 300 million Americans. Already, we have gone from Johnson & Johnson vaccine authorization to shots in the arm in three days.
I was telling the gentlemen, we were at a facility yesterday — a veterans outreach — and there were four — or there were three members of the veterans community getting shots. One was getting — of each of the three vaccines. And the guy in the middle, a veteran, was getting his. And I was standing about as far away as I am from you, and standing up, and he was sitting down. And as the nurse put it in his arm, he went, “J&J — just one.” (Laughs.)
Well, there’s millions of people who are going to feel that way and be proud to have — be in a position that they ha- — an ability to get the kind of help they need.
Seven weeks ago, only 8 percent of the seniors — those most vulnerable to COVID-19 — had received the vaccination. Today, 60 percent of the people over the age of 65 or older have received at least one shot. And that’s because this is the population that represents 80 percent of the COVID-19 deaths.
We’ve opened — we’ve opened support and opened — excuse me — and supported more than 500 community vaccination sites. That’s more — and they’re administrating hundreds of thousands of shots a day.
And for folks who aren’t near a pharmacy or mass vaccination center, we’re deploying mobile clinics, like vans, that go into places to meet the folks where they live. We’re also supplying vaccines to community health centers to reach those who have been hit the hardest and suffered the most, especially black, Latino, Native American, and rural communities. And this is important because we know we have more to do to ensure everyone is treated with equity and those most impacted get the care they deserve.
On Saturday, we hit a record of 2.9 million vaccinations in one day in America. And beyond the numbers are the stories: a father who says he no longer fears for his daughter when she leaves to go to work at the hospital; the children who are now able to hug their grandparents. The vaccines bring hope and healing in so many ways.
Again, a vaccinated American is the only way to beat the pandemic, get our economy back on track, and for us to get back our lives and our loved ones.
You know, that’s why the American Rescue Plan was so critical. I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and the House of Representatives today for passing the bill, and I will be signing it into law shortly.
This bill represents a historic — historic victory for the American people. I look forward to signing it later this week.
Everything in the American Rescue Plan addresses a real need, including investments to fund our entire vaccination effort: more vaccines, more vaccinators, and more vaccinations sites. Millions more Americans will get tested, including home testing. Schools will soon have the funding and resources to reopen safely — a national imperative.
The American Rescue Plan, the partnership between Johnson & Johnson and Merck, proves we can do big things, important things in this country.
Now, I’ll — let me conclude with this: Tomorrow night, I’m going on primetime to address the American people and talk about what we went through as a nation this past year. But more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people.
There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable. Together, we’re going to get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future. So there is real reason for hope, folks. There’s real reason for hope, I promise you.
May God bless you all. May God protect our troops. And may God ease the pain in the heart of so many who have lost so many people in this pandemic.
Thank you, and I really — we’re going to do this. We’re going to get it done. Thank you.
3:53 P.M. EST