Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Virtual Meeting to Discuss COVID-19 Public Education Efforts
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
9:26 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Surgeon General Murthy. And I just — in front of all of the friends who are here, I just have to tell you he has been tireless for months and months, working on this issue. And so in front of everyone, I want to thank you, Vivek, for all you have been doing to lift us up as a nation and to also lift up the importance of following the science and the fact that we are in this together, and so lifting up the power and significance of the collective.
And so, to everyone: Thank you. Good morning. I know it’s very early for all of the friends on the West Coast. And to all of you, thank you for joining for this first meeting, this inaugural meeting of our Community Corps.
And we are truly very excited about the participation and the collaboration and the coalition-building potential of this group of leaders. And I’ll tell you, when we look at the number of vaccines that are being administered each week, they are increasing, and that gives us a sense of optimism. We are breaking records all of the time. Our goal of 100 million shots in 100 days is now 200 million shots in 100 days. And by April 19th, 9 in 10 adults in the United States will be eligible to sign up for a shot.
And we want — and the President feels very strongly about this — we want every adult in the United States to sign up and get vaccinated when they can and when it’s their turn, because that’s what will make us strong, and that’s what will make us healthy and get us through this pandemic.
And so this is what we’re here to discuss. And again, thank you all for taking the call to be part of this.
Around this virtual table, we have some of the most trusted leaders in the United States. I’ve got a big screen here where I can see everyone. I hope you all can see each other. We can just — let’s wave. (Laughs.) What a collection.
We have community leaders, we have faith leaders, we have union leaders, we have business leaders. Leaders, leaders, leaders. And we know that the people of our country look to leaders like you, and they have been looking to you. They have been looking in your eyes, searching to believe that there should be a reason to have hope. They have been looking in your eyes and looking to you to give them some confidence that we can get through this and give them a sense of knowing that they are not alone.
This is what you all have been doing over the course of this last year. And you, of course, are leaders that are leaders in your communities. You are the people that folks on the ground know and rely on and have a history with. And when people are then making the decision to get vaccinated, they’re going to look to you. They’re going to look to you to help answer the questions that they may have that may include “What’s in the vaccine?” and may also include “How do I sign up? How do I get there?” — the transportation piece.
And so that’s why today, as part of our broader public education campaign, we are launching our COVID-19 Community Corps. And so everyone, as the Surgeon General has said, everyone gathered here is a founding member. And I thank you on behalf of myself and President Biden for stepping up.
This is a really important moment, and we have a great opportunity at this moment. And as we all know, each day is not equal. We are at a phase where, with the increasing number of supply of vaccinations, we are at a phase at this moment where we can actually get a hold of this thing and advance where we want to be as a country in terms of protecting our neighbors.
And so, as members, you will have access to the latest information and a host of resources that you can then share with those you serve. And we will work with you to get creative, and we want your ideas about how we can be most creative to be most effective.
Through our “Share the Mic” program, for instance, we can set up a Q&A — a question and answer — with a doctor or a nurse on your platforms.
This work couldn’t be more important. And as we know, our public health professionals are some of the most trusted in terms of a source of information about what is in the vaccine and how it works.
But here’s the other truth that we must speak: In some communities — some of our hardest-hit communities — it’s too hard to access the vaccine or get information about it. And we have to be honest about that. We certainly are.
We have to be honest that in some communities, there is a concern about getting vaccinated, some based on mistrust based on history, some based on — just rooted in misinformation, of which there is a lot out there. And we need your help to combat that.
And so these are — these are some of the concerns that people have. And these are — these are fair concerns, which we must address.
But no matter the community, trusted leaders are the best way to boost confidence. And trusted leaders — you — are the best way to deliver information.
You know, yesterday, I actually convened a group of faith leaders from around the country. And they were very clear. They said, “Look, sometimes people just need basic information.” You know? I mean, you’re asking people to take a shot in the arm. They need — they need to know what’s going on. They need to know things like what’s in the vaccine, how does it work. And they need to hear from the people they trust. And again, that is you.
And so that’s why we are investing the bulk of our time and resources in this group of leaders — in you — who are the trusted leaders of America.
Last week, we announced that we’re investing nearly $10 billion in grants to community organizations, to health centers, and local governments to help build confidence and increase access to the vaccine. And with our Community Corps, we will empower more leaders with more information to reach more people.
So you kind of get the theme here: We need to do more. And we need your help to do it.
Whether you run a faith-based organization that’s going door-to-door to schedule appointments, which so many of you have been doing; or a food assistance program that’s making sure that folks have transportation to vaccination sites; or a community health center, doing the beautiful, culturally competent work — the bilingual health outreach, speaking to people in the language they speak, literally and culturally.
And the basic message, of course, we all know, is pretty straightforward: The vaccine is safe, and it will save lives. The vaccine is safe, and it will save lives. And so the Community Corps is about getting that message out as far and as wide as we possibly can.
And, you know, I’ve been calling our broad public education campaign the We Can Do This Campaign. Because I do believe — I know and I have faith that we can do this. And so with your help, let’s do it.
And I look forward to hearing from you about what you are doing, how it is going, how we might help you scale your good work. And again, you know, this has been a moment of great crisis, as our Surgeon General has said — great loss, loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of normalcy for our children, loss of very significant phases of their educational process. And there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We are now — you know, we are — we’re in spring. I’m here in D.C., and I just got a peek at the cherry blossoms blooming. And — and around the world, regardless of your faith or where you might be, this is a time where we celebrate renewal and hope.
And I’m very much feeling that, and I know we are collectively feeling that. But we have to then couple our hope and our faith with action, because that’s the only way we will achieve all that we hope to achieve and gain.
And so that, again, brings me back to you, because you are people of action and we are so honored to have you join us.
And so now we’re going to hear from several of our Community Corps founding members. And the first is — I’m introducing Dr. Reed Tuckson of the Black Coalition Against COVID.
(The meeting begins.)
(The meeting concludes.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And Dr. Murthy knows — because he’s been a leader in our administration on this, together with Dr. Nunez-Smith — it is very important to the President that we speak truth and address racial inequities across the board, but on this topic in particular in our healthcare system. And, again, these disparities existed long before.
When we look at the rates of the — of infection and death in the Asian community, in the African American community, Latinos, our Native community, the numbers are — are really unacceptable and tragic. And in terms of the impact on these communities, of course, profound.
And so this is something we have been addressing. We have a Racial Equity Task Force that is very much a part of our whole approach to this. And in addition, you will often hear the President and all of us talk about the importance of equitable distribution of resources and support.
And so, to everyone here — and again, I’m going to look at the whole group — to everyone here: I thank you. I thank you. I thank you for your work; for your time; for your leadership; for what you are doing to boost the confidence of the people who need to know, again, that they’re not alone; for reminding folks that, you know, it is within each person’s power to actually make this choice and make the decision to get vaccinated, and in so doing, to save their life. Right? It’s within each individual’s power.
And I think there’s been so much about this pandemic that has isolated people — literally isolated them — but also isolated folks emotionally, making people feel alone. And as we all know, when folks feel alone, it can — it can strip them of their sense of their power. And so part of this whole collective and this approach — this Community Corps — is that we know there is power that we give the individual when they see that they are not alone and that we are all in this together as a community.
And that is very much at the essence of this whole approach and what we are doing today, and what you, as founding members, are doing. It is about reminding our fellow person of their power and that we see them, that they matter, and that we’re going to help each other out.
So, you know, there’s a reason that COVID-19 Community Corps is at the core of our public education campaign. And the work each of you is doing is going to make a huge difference. You’re saving lives.
And I’ll tell you, just as a housekeeping note, there’s going to be a social media toolkit in your inbox now to help you continue your work. And we will be in touch with you with more resources in the days ahead. Be in touch with each other. Everyone can see — I’m sure you see people you know. Let’s all be in touch with each other, and we can do this. We can do this.
So, thank you. And, Dr. Murthy, thank you always for your leadership. Thank you all, everyone. And be well. Be well. Be well. Be well. Thank you.
END 10:06 A.M. EDT