Remarks by President Biden on the COVID-19 Response and the State of Vaccinations
South Court Auditorium
1:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone.
Back in December, I set a goal of administering 100 million shots — vaccine shots in my first 100 days in office. At the time, some told us that it couldn’t be done, it was awfully ambitious. But we did it in 58 days because of the incredible staff I have.
And so I set a second goal to deliver 200 million shots in my first 100 days in office — a goal unmatched in the world or in prior mass vaccination efforts in American history.
When tomorrow’s vaccine — vaccination numbers come out, it will show that, today, we did it. Today, we hit 200 million shots on the 92nd day in office. Two hundred million shots in 100 days — in under 100 days, actually. It’s an incredible achievement for the nation, and here’s the context:
You know, at the pace we were moving when I took office, it would have taken us more than 220 days — almost seven months — seven and a half months — to reach 200 million shots. Instead of marking this milestone in April, we would not have seen it until early September at the earliest.
Some experts say that our — the rapid vaccination effort has already saved tens of thousands of American lives. We’ll never know exactly, but we know it saved lives that would have otherwise been lost.
I’m proud of the work my administration has done to get Americans vaccinated. But more than that, I’m proud of the American people: the volunteers who showed up to staff vaccination sites in their neighborhoods, drove senior citizens to get their shots; FEMA; the military, the National Guard; state and local health departments and providers running sites safely and efficiently; retired healthcare workers coming back to give lifesaving shots to people in their communities.
This is an American achievement; a powerful demonstration of unity and resolve — what unity will do for us; and a reminder of what we can accomplish when we pull together as one people to a common goal.
Now that we’ve reached this milestone, we’re entering a new phase of our vaccination effort. As of Monday, at my direction, with the support of 50 governors — Democrats and Republicans, alike — everyone over the age of 16
will be [is now] eligible to get vaccinated.
The first three months of our vaccination program fercus [sic] — focused on targeting vaccines to specific high-risk groups. Now our objective is to reach everyone — everyone over the age of 16 in America. Wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, if you are 16 or older, you are now eligible for a free COVID vaccine shot, and we have the vaccine to deliver.
We head into this next phase — it’s important for us to look at where we stand. After three months of targeting vaccinations largely to healthcare workers, frontline workers, and people with high-risk conditions; nursing homes — nursing home residents and seniors — the progress we’ve made has been stunning.
Let me point out a few achievements.
First, as of this past Sunday, more than 50 percent of adult Americans have had at least one vaccine shot. We still have a long way to go, but that’s an important marker of progress.
When it comes to our target groups, the largest groups we’ve focused on in these past 92 days have been seniors: Americans age 65 and older. They account for 80 percent of all the COVID deaths before we started vaccinating.
When I took office, 8 percent of the people over 65 had received their first shot. I’m pleased to announce that, by tomorrow, that total will exceed 80 percent of the people over the age of 65. Eighty percent of American seniors of all races, religions, political views will have had at least one shot.
It will be another month or so before we see the
full benefits of this effort, as many seniors still need the second shot plus the two weeks to gain that protection after the second shot.
But already, we’ve seen a dramatic decline in deaths among people over the age of 65 — an 80 percent reduction in deaths of people over the age of 65. Still, far too many lives lost, but also a lot of lives saved.
In the weeks ahead, as more seniors reach full vaccination, that number of lives lost will continue to — to decrease.
You know, we’ve made great progress with another target group as well: educators, school staff, bus drivers, and child care workers.
Back in February, when many of our schools were fully or
partially closed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the CDC — issued guidelines to help reopen our schools safely. Then, in March, Congress approved the American Rescue Plan to fund the safe reopening of our schools.
One thing was clear: Many educators were understandably anxious about going back to a classroom without being vaccinated, and many parents were understandably nervous about sending their kids back as well.
So, on March the 2nd, I launched a program directing all states to make educators, school staff, school bus drivers, child care workers eligible for vaccination in every state
so that schools and child care centers could open with a peace of mind.
Within a month, 80 percent had received at least one shot,
and schools and child care centers all over the country are reopening.
Now, to be clear, we still have some work to do with our target groups, but we’ve made remarkable progress. As we continue, as I said, the time is now to open up a new phase
of this historic vaccination effort.
To put it simply: If you’ve been waiting for your turn,
wait no longer. Now is the time for everyone over 16 years of age to get vaccinated.
Unlike the target groups, where we’ve made such great progress, the broad swath of American adults still remain largely unvaccinated. In a number of states, they weren’t eligible for the vaccination until this week. Too many younger Americans may still think they don’t need to get vaccinated.
So, let me explain two reasons why we need everyone over 16 years of age in America to get vaccinated and share what we’re going to do to encourage it.
The first reason, quite simply, is to keep you from getting very sick or dying. Hundreds of Americans are still dying from
COVID every day. The data could not be clearer at this point:
If you are fully vaccinated, two weeks beyond your last shot
you are nearly 100 percent protected against death from COVID.
No matter what your age, no matter what your health history, until you are fully vaccinated, you are still vulnerable. The vaccine can save your life.
The second reason to get vaccinated is to protect your community, your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Vaccines can save your own life, but they can also save your grandmother’s life, your coworker’s life, the grocery store clerk, or the delivery person helping you and your neighbors get through the crisis.
Now, that’s why you should get vaccinated. Let me talk about how we’re making it easier for you to be able to get vaccinated.
First, there are some steps I announced previously that are hitting the ground this week. Ninety percent of the American people now live within five miles of a place where they can get a shot.
And under our federal vaccination program, shots will be available at nearly 40,000 pharmacies coast to coast. And if you can go into a busy sh- — to buy your shampoo or toothpaste, you can stop and get vaccinated.
The vaccine is free, it’s convenient, and it’s increasingly available.
But I know that isn’t enough. As we move into the vaccination campaign focused on working-age adults,
one concern I’ve heard from so many Americans is that they can’t afford to take the time off to get vaccinated or lose a day’s work because they are feeling slightly under the weather after their shot.
So today, I’m announcing a program to address that issue nationwide. I’m calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, to give employees the time off they need, with pay,
to get vaccinated and any time they need, with pay, to recover if they are feeling under the weather after the shot.
No working American should lose a single dollar from their paycheck because they chose to fulfill their patriotic duty of getting vaccinated.
We’re already seeing employers, large and small, stepping up to meet this historic moment. The grocery store Krogers offered employees $100 to get vaccinated. It helped push vaccination rates from 50 percent to 75 percent among their associates.
Patty Young owns a hair salon in Springfield, Ohio.
She’s also dedicated to getting her customers and employers vaccin- — employees vaccinated that when they leave the saloon, the receptionist — the “saloon” — the salon — they may be going to the saloon; I don’t know. But when — (Laughter.)
But when the re- — when they leave the salon, the receptionist helps sign you or your family up to get a COVID vaccine and where to get it. They’ve scheduled more than 200 shots so far.
Businesses and employers like Patty should be supported for doing the right thing. So to make sure this policy comes at no cost to small- or medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees, the IRS — the IRS is posting instructions for how employers can get reimbursed for the cost of providing paid leave for their employees to get vaccinated and recover from the side effects if they have any. That reimbursement, which comes through a tax payment, is thanks to the program I launched in the American Rescue Plan.
So again, every employee should get paid leave to get a shot. And businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line. There’s no excuse for not getting it done.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll have more to say about other new developments in our vaccine program. But we’ll also continue moving aggressively to build our progress — build on our progress and race to the finish line here.
But let me close with this: Back on March 11th, I outlined a vision of what America could look like by the Fourth of July — an America that was much closer to normal life that we left behind more than a year ago. We remain on track for that goal.
In the week since then, more than 120 million shots have been given since I announced the July 4th proposal. More of our kids are back in school. And after a long and painful year, more grandparents are able to hug their grandkids again. It’s great progress.
But if we let up now and stop being vigilant, this virus will erase the progress we’ve already achieved, the sacrifices we’ve made, the lives that been put on hold, the loved ones who’ve been taken from us, the time we’re never going to get back.
To celebrate our independence from this virus on July 4th with family and friends in small groups, we still have more to do in the months of May and June. We all need to mask up until the number of cases goes down, until everyone has a chance to get their shot.
To Americans 16 years and older, it’s your turn now. Now. So go get your vaccine before the end of May. We can do this. And we’ll do this as long as we don’t let up.
Thank you all very much. As I said a long time ago, we’re going to beat this as long as we do it together. And I want to again thank my COVID team. I want to thank the Vice President. I want to thank Jeff Zients behind me and the entire COVID team for putting this together.
May God protect our troops. May God bless you all. Thank you. Thank you.
Q What about rising cases abroad?
Q Mr. President, do you think that the U.S. has hit the point where decreasing demand for vaccines is now the biggest challenge instead of increasing supply?
THE PRESIDENT: Not yet.
But I — and you asked about — what about abroad — helping abroad. We’re in the process of doing that. We’ve done a little bit of that already. We’re looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using. We’re going to make sure they are safe to be sent. And we hope to be able to be of some help and value to countries around the world.
We — I’ve talked to our neighbors. I — matter of fact, a fellow who is working really hard to take care of his country and deal with this I was on the phone with for about a half an hour today. And the Prime Minister of Canada — we helped a little bit there; we’re going to try to help some more.
But there’s other countries as well that I’m confident we can help, including in Central America. And so — but it’s — it’s in process. We don’t have enough to be confident to give it — send it abroad now. But I — I expect we’re going to be able to do that.
2:00 P.M. EDT