Thomas Built Buses
High Point, North Carolina
3:10 P.M EDT
Q Madam Vice President, so there’s a lot of interest in your role with the diplomacy with Northern Triangle countries, in Mexico. So I’m curious, one, if there’s any update on any engagements you may have planned or are doing. But I’m also curious if you are getting, kind of, frustrated with the Republicans trying to tie what your role is on — with the Northern Triangle countries to what’s happening at the border.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So we are making progress, but let’s just be very clear: This is a complicated, complex issue that actually has been an issue for a long time. And the work that we are putting into it now is work that is going to require a longstanding commitment beyond the administration’s. It is work that is not going to evidence its impact overnight because the issues are so intractable.
When we’re looking at my focus, which is a diplomatic focus on the Northern Triangle, it is about bringing together — as I did now, I think, a couple of weeks ago — the members of the Cabinet. And the progress there is that Commerce, for example, is going to host a virtual trade mission. The Department of Agriculture, under the leadership of Secretary Vilsack, is increasing its focus on the work that needs to happen to support the agricultural efforts of that region that have been decimated because of extreme climate, because of poverty. But it’s evidencing itself in a number of ways, including extreme food insecurity in that region. We’re bringing together USAID, which is increasing its work around its program that is focused on disaster relief. So this is some of the work that’s happening.
As you know, I met last week with the Prime Minister of Japan and approached him about the work that Japan can do in (inaudible) to assist. We are also working through the U.N., with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, around bringing our allies to really renew a focus in that region.
So it is something that is going to require diplomatic work. It is something that is going to require a multilateral approach, in addition to what we can do with our agencies.
This week, I’m bringing together foundation leaders from across our country to really encourage them to do more in terms of the civil society piece of this, which will be about both growing the work that they’ve already done historically, but also engaging civil society in the region — in the Northern Triangle.
Q On vaccines —
AIDE: We have time for about one more question.
Q On vaccines: You’ve been taking a lead role in hesitancy outreach. The Johnson & Johnson news really scared a lot of people. You have seen the legitimate news stories — people responding, worried about vaccines they’ve taken, what they’ve done. And it has also just created a ton of misinformation. What can you do to fix that issue, to rebuild that trust?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you rightly point out that we have to take seriously the vaccine hesitancy issue. And I will argue, however, that we need to do that and als- — always couple that with what we need to do to make sure people have access and they know where to actually get the vaccine. Because I’m finding as many people want to take, just — need to figure out where they can get it. Right?
And, by the way, today, as you all know, April 19th, we now have opened it up for everyone. Everyone is eligible over the age of 16.
In terms of the hesitancy issue, it’s real. So that is about continuing to do the work of reminding folks that it is safe, that it is effective, that it will save their lives. Reminding folks that it is not enough to get vaccinated; we also want to make sure people continue to wear their masks, social distance, wash their hands.
But, you know, we also have to realize that part of the hesitancy — and I’m hearing more of this — comes from the fact that some people think, “Well, this thing just got created too quickly. Like it just — overnight it seemed to have occurred.”
Well, we have to correct the record and make people aware — knowing Dr. Fauci has talked about this: This vaccine is the product of a long period of extensive research over many, many years.
So, this is the work we have to do, which is to educate people about the effectiveness, specifically as it relates to the J&J vaccine. I know the CDC has information on their website for people who are concerned.
But the reality is that, at least right now — and I believe that all of the scientists and the public health experts are telling us — it has affected a very, very small fraction of those who have received it.
And the most important thing, again, is that everyone gets the vaccine when it is their turn. We — we are — remain committed to the fact that we will have enough vaccines in the United States by the 1st of May to vaccinate everyone. And so we want to encourage everyone to do their part and to get their vaccine.
END 3:15 P.M. EDT