South Court Auditorium
1:13 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, hi, everybody. It’s good to — I’m supposed to look over here and not at you guys. But we got six governors with us today — Democrats and Republicans — and they’re meeting the moment: Governor Mills of Maine, Governor DeWine of Ohio, Governor Cox of Utah, Governor Walz of Minnesota, Governor Baker of Massachusetts, and Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico. And it’s great to connect with you all.
You know, last week, I provided an update on where we were with our vaccination program and — and what comes next. And I said our goal, by July the 4th, is to have 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated.
And that’s a pretty huge goal, I acknowledge that, but you’ve done a remarkable job. But if we succeed, we’re going to be able to take a serious step toward return to normalcy by — by Independence Day, which is a goal that was not arbitrary, but based on talking to the docs — thought if we did what we’d had to do, we could meet.
And there’s a lot of work to do, though, to get there. But I believe we can get there. And part of the reason I’m so confident is because of your leadership — the governors — and — and your partnership with us.
The governors with us today and their counterparts have been instrumental in helping us make progress and — more quickly than anyone would have thought. Working together, we delivered over 220 million shots in my first 100 days — well beyond anyone’s expectations, but because of their cooperation.
And today, more than 150 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. Over 115 million Americans are fully vaccinated. Nearly 85 percent of people — excuse me — 65 and over have gotten at least one shot. And whether it’s a red state or a blue state, Black, white, Latino, AAPI — Americans from every walk of life are getting their vaccines. We got more to do though.
Now, cases and hospitalizations and deaths are all down. Tens of thousands of moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents, neighbors, friends are still with us who, I believe — whom would have otherwise — we would have lost but for the work of these governors.
And millions of Americans are starting to live life more normally after more than a year of sacrifice. And I know everybody is tired of hearing me say this online here, but it isn’t Democratic progress or Republican progress, it’s American progress.
And now — now, we’ve got to take the next step together. I know every week you meet with Jeff Zients, who’s here with me, and he — you go through it. And I’ve had a chance to meet with the governors’ conference and others, but it’s — we — we decided from the very beginning, as you all remember, that — how many govs did you speak with in the last — just today was the —
MR. ZIENTS: Well, today we had our weekly call.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, weekly.
MR. ZIENTS: So, most governors attend that call, which is great.
THE PRESIDENT: And — but the point is that we know we want to get something done. It’s all about governors and mayors and county executives. It’s all local. It’s on the street.
And to meet the goal that I set last week, we need to accomplish three things, in my view. One, we have to make it easier and more convenient for all Americans to get vaccinated. And you’re busting your neck doing that.
Two, to build confidence in vaccines by delivering facts and answering questions to anyone who might have one and have thorough answers.
And three, by ensuring that we reach everyone with an equitable response that as — as we enter this next phase.
And to help us get there, we’ve added two new tools. One, Americans can go to Vaccines.gov. Or they can text their ZIP Code to 3- — excuse me, misspoke — their ZIP Code texted to 438829. Let me say it again: 438829. And they’ll get at least three locations near them with vaccines in stock at that moment.
And at my direction, more than 20,000 pharmacies coast to coast are now offering walk-in vaccinations by no appointment necessary. And the governors are — you all are stepping up to increase the availability of walk-in vaccinations as well.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is shifting focus from larger vaccination sites to smaller community-based sites and mobile clinics to reach more people where they are.
And we’ve recently made significant new investments around vaccine education, including funds to help states and community organizations get the word out on the local level.
Just yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use author- — authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children 12- to 15-years of age. Twelve to fifteen. That more parents — that means parents who — who want to protect their children, younger teens who want to get vaccinated — we’re a step closer to that goal now.
And today, I’m also announcing additional steps. To ensure that transportation is less of a barrier, from May 24th through July 4th, Uber and Lyft — Uber and Lyft are both going to offer everyone free rides to and from vaccination sites. I think that is really stepping up. Both Uber and Lyft — free rides to — they’ll wait — and from — they’ll take you back home.
And it makes it easy for students who will work with federal pharmacy partners to bring on-campus vaccines sites to dozens of the nation’s largest community colleges this summer. And I want to thank the governors here for making it easy as possible for students to get vaccinated.
And finally, I’m announcing today that FEMA is making support available immediately for community vaccination outreach efforts. This will help states, Tribes, territories, local governments, and community- and faith-based organizations to make more progress on the ground — things like phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, pop-up vaccination sites at workplaces and houses of worship.
And so, once again, governors in so many states, particularly the six that are here, have been essential partners in this effort. And they know it isn’t about politics; it’s about saving lives and livelihoods, rebuilding our economy, and getting us back to our way of life.
So it gets to have — so, you know, the idea that we have six of the best governors who have worked on this with me today is really a pleasure. And all of you have done a remarkable job. And with your permission, I’d like to hear from you about the best practices and innovations that have worked for you, what you’ve learned across these three areas — on improving access, building confidence, and ensuring equity.
And I would like to start by talking about improving access to vaccines. Governor Mills of Maine and Governor DeWine of Ohio, both of you have developed creative programs to meet people where they are.
Governor Mills, if you don’t mind, I like to ask you how — how are you reaching out to people and encouraging them to get vaccinated? And what kind of success are you having?
GOVERNOR MILLS: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for all you’re doing to help us get shots in arms. It’s a great honor to join you and fellow governors across the nation to share these innovative ways that Maine is vaccinating people against COVID-19.
Maine has had some of the lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the country since the onset of the pandemic. The people of our state believe in the science, and they have followed public health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
Now we are closing in on the 70 percent of adults that you want us to close in on — 70 percent of adults in Maine having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine — the goal you set. Right now, we’re at 67 percent.
THE PRESIDENT: All right.
GOVERNOR MILLS: And about — and about 53 percent of all eligible people in Maine are fully vaccinated.
Well, that achievement has not been without challenges. We’re a rural state, as you know, of 1.3 million people — the most dispersed population of any state in the lower 48, with small cities; with towns surrounded by blueberry barrens, potato fields, and forests; towns on islands; people living at the very end of a road.
In fact, when we asked people in Maine to stay six feet apart — or, as the fishermen say, “one fathom” — some people asked, “Why so close?” (Laughter.)
We’re also the oldest — oldest state in the nation with more than 20 percent of our population being over 65. So, low population density and age are our big challenges.
When we began this massive logistical undertaking, getting vaccines into shot — into arms, we focused on equity, we focused on addressing what made us the most — most vulnerable to the virus.
So we knew that older individuals were more likely to get very sick and suffer and die. So after healthcare providers and first responders, we then began vaccinating people over 60 — over the age of 60.
As a supply increased — thank you very much — and as we expanded — we expanded eligibility by age, by April 7th, everyone 16 and older was eligible. Today, as I mentioned, more than half of all eligible people are fully vaccinated.
Nearly every day, our state has led the nation in getting shots in arms, but we’re not dropping our guard. We’re not slowing down. Every shot in arm, we know, is a death prevented, a life saved, a family kept whole.
So Maine is doubling down on access, especially in hard-to-reach communities and for people who are hesitant, like the woman in Western Maine who drove a truck five miles down from her mountain-top home to be the first line of the pharmacy one morning. If you build it, we thought, they will come. (Laughter.)
With remarkable cooperation by our big healthcare systems, we started with the mass vaccination clinics, with the National Guard, local personnel, and volunteers.
Now we are participating with FEMA on a mobile vaccination unit that’s getting to those hard-to-reach people in underserved populations. We have drive-thru clinics for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We’re hosting pop-up clinics for hard-to-reach groups at their workplaces. We vaccinated homebound seniors in their homes. And we’ve expanded walk-in hours and morning and late evening hours for shift workers, like the woman working the night shift in a bakery in Lewiston.
We brought clinics to the islands for fishermen’s families. We’ve operated clinics at houses of worship, from mosques to the Methodists. And like many other states, we’ve offered free transportation and a very smooth vaccination experience.
But I’m pleased to announce to you that, as of today, for those who get their first shot between now and Memorial Day, we’re offering a voucher from our Fish and Wildlife Department, and our Parks and Conservation folks, and from retailers like L.L. Bean; the Portland Sea Dogs, our minor league baseball team Charlie knows so well; and the Oxford Plains Speedway, our biggest racetrack, to get free tickets to a ballgame or a race event, a free fishing license or hunting license, or gift card for outdoor gear.
We’re calling this “Your Shot to Get Outdoors.” Oh, it’s corny, I know. (Laughter.) But we — we know that people in Maine have found refuge and relief in Mother Nature throughout the pandemic. So these incentives will encourage that outdoor activity while getting more shots in arms as quickly as possible.
So, thank you, Mr. President, for your support for all the states. Maine is doing everything we can to put this pandemic behind us. We’re giving it our best shot.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Gov, thank you. Thank you. I think that it’s remarkable what you’re doing. (Coughs.) And, you know, I — excuse me. I — well, I’ll get back. I want to hear from Mike first, then I want to ask you both a question, if I may.
Mike, Gov. Fire away. Ohio.
GOVERNOR DEWINE: Mr. President, thank you for doing this. We appreciate you listening. I want to say hi to Jeff and tell him we appreciate his work and the fact that he listens. We were on the phone again today, so that’s very, very helpful to us.
Mr. President, we’ve taken a community approach to this. Ohio is a state of communities. We started off right from the word “go” — about 650 locations. We’re now up to 1,900 locations where people can get the shot.
In addition to that, we have new pop- — new pop-up places every day. We have the mobile clinics out as well. And that’s worked — that’s worked exceedingly, exceedingly well.
We started early on with pharmacies, and that’s — we think that that has been very important, as well as our health departments, as well as our Federally Qualified Clinics and hospitals.
We have a lot of nursing homes and a lot of assisted living in Ohio; I think over 1,700. And, of course, we had a lot of deaths there. And, though, the first thing that we did on day one, literally, was to start focusing on those nursing homes and assisted living.
Once we made the — working with the federal government — three passes through these nursing homes, we knew that that was not enough, though, because we knew that they would be taking in new people — they would have new residents every day; they would have new employees every day.
So we have set up a vaccine maintenance program that’s working with their pharmacy and is making sure that every single week they’ve got new vaccine going into these 1,700 nursing homes. And I think that that makes a huge difference, again, taking it to people where they are.
Our National Guard is going out and has been going out for weeks into senior housing — taking it right into the lobby, setting up shop, vaccinating people. All they have to do is come down from their rooms. And that has worked, we think, very, very well.
We’re really decentralized in Ohio, Mr. President. We have 113 local health departments.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR DEWINE: And it’s the local health departments, it’s the mayors, it’s the counties — they’re the ones who are really the — the action here.
So I’m on the phone every Monday morning for 45 minutes with every one of our health departments, and I learn a lot. They tell us what — what they need, what we can do to help them. We try to get them right away whatever — whatever they need.
But we also hear from them the innovation that they’re doing. And the innovation, as you know — as you said at the beginning, it comes locally. And so, we’ll take that innovation from one health department — what they’re doing — and then make sure that other health departments are aware of that, and other providers around the state are aware of that. So it’s very, very, very important.
We have taken a vaccine in August — we went out — no, excuse me — in February, we went out and vaccinated every teacher in the state who wanted to be vaccinated. We actually took the vaccine to a place close to them. In some cases, it was directly into their school. That enabled us to open up virtually every single school on March 1st. And — but, again, it was taking it to them.
We’ve done the same thing with colleges, before college was out for the summer. We’ve done it with — working with our labor unions. We’ve done it working with businesses; a lot of innovation going on in businesses. And what we found is that businesses that have us come in, have a — they have a health partner that does it, they work very closely with their employees, and they’re able to get an uptake that, quite candidly, I don’t think we would have gotten any other way but by taking that directly —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR DEWINE: — directly into that — into that business.
We are really at the ground game now. We’ve always been at the ground game. But I think you’re seeing governors, you know, continue to push out and go to where people — people are. We have some health departments that are literally out knocking on — knocking on doors. We have mobile clinics going around. And we want to reach people, you know, exactly where they are.
Just a couple observations: There certainly has been a appetite for the Johnson & Johnson. We’re —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR DEWINE: We’re seeing that the people who really want Johnson & Johnson, they want that one shot and to be done.
There also clearly was an appetite for walk-up clinics. And so, you know, most of the clinics in Ohio, as you said, are open for walkups and people — there’s people who just want to go; they want to make up their mind that day and go out and be able to knock on the door.
Finally, we’re very, very excited about being able to vaccinate 12-, 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds. And we’ve got plans in school, but we also have plans in the — in the summer with boys’ club, girls’ clubs, feeding programs, and other things, trying to take this to where people are.
So, thank you for doing this, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you both for what you guys are doing.
And one of the things that I wanted to ask Governor Mills is that: The idea of engaging in and offering benefits, like everything from fishing licenses on — my guess is — and free tickets and vouchers — my guess is that’s probably going to work. I mean, do you have any —
GOVERNOR MILLS: I think so. (Laughs.) I think so. We’re offering a great spectrum of things. Ad I think it’ll be an incentive to those who still — may be still hesitant.
You know, people would love to go L.L. Bean or go online and buy — buy a new hunting vest or whatnot. And people want to go to the Sea Dogs because, as Charlie Baker knows, the season has opened up.
THE PRESIDENT: Yep.
GOVERNOR MILLS: I think it’s a good incentive. I know other states are doing something different.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR MILLS: Some are offering shots of booze. (Laughter.) New Jersey, Connecticut —
THE PRESIDENT: Can I — can I ask you a — both of you one last question? I’m sorry to take so long here, but I’m interested.
Tell me about what the mobile vaccine unit is like. I mean, are you driving around in a — with docs in a pickup truck or are you — I mean — (laughter.) No, I’m being deadly earnest. For people — this is being zoomed — that — talk to me about — if you each tell me what you’re doing.
GOVERNOR MILLS: I’ve been through our mobile unit, and it’s very attractive, very clean. It’s a big, like trailer-kind of thing — a vehicle. And it’s staffed by people from the United States Health Service — Public Health Service and some National Guard and some FEMA people. And it’s a great level of cooperation among those agencies and with the State of Maine and local governments.
And I’ve seen people delighted — being able to drive up; get out; walk through the trailer; sit for — sit back in their car for 15 minutes; be watched, you know, remotely; and drive off feeling free and clear of COVID.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Mike, how about you?
GOVERNOR DEWINE: Mr. President, all mobile clinics are not alike, at least in Ohio.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR DEWINE: Just a couple examples. Ohio — Ohio Northern University is going out into small communities. And they announce when they’re going to be there. They’re going to be here “this afternoon” in “this community,” so it allows people in smaller communities to have it in their community and they know when it’s coming.
We’re seeing it in — in cities. I was in Cincinnati this past — a few days ago. And what they’re doing is they’re using that as a base, but they’re going out — the one I saw was actually in a library — but they use that mobile clinic as kind of the base to store and to bring the vaccine out.
So it’s going out. It’s trying to be innovative, trying to figure out, you know, how do we take it directly to people.
The reality is — and my wife Fran and I have been to, I think, 37, 38 different vaccine clinics, and we always talk to the people who are getting vaccinated. And we talk to those who have — who have maybe hesitated in the past. And what you find is that sometimes they’ve just been — they’ve been waiting and they’ve been really waiting for an opportunity — something that makes it easier to do. It’s not that they’re against getting vaccine, they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
And so getting that person, getting them the vaccines — make it easy, make it convenient — I think, is very important.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you both. You’re doing a heck of a job. I’d like to turn to Governor Cox, now, of Utah and Governor Walz of Minnesota.
Another critical issue is increasing confidence among people who are hesitant to get the vaccine. Governor Cox, I know you’re bringing community leaders in to build confidence. Tell me about your efforts, and what — how it practically is function- — what you’re see from those efforts.
GOVERNOR COX: Well, thank you, Mr. President. It’s great to be with you. We appreciate Jeff taking all of our complaints over the past few months. He’s been — he’s been remarkable in helping us resolve all of those, and mostly putting up —
THE PRESIDENT: And, by the way, he doesn’t own any pharmacies. I just want you guys to know. (Laughter.)
GOVERNOR COX: We’re very well aware. But thanks for allowing us to participate and highlight some of the — some of the good things we are doing and that are working well.
By the way, just an aside to a — and a tip for our media partners. I occasionally see reporting that focuses on what percentage of the total population has been vaccinated. That’s great for places like Maine with the oldest population in the country. For places like Utah with the youngest population in the country — of course, a large, significant portion of our state that is not eligible to be vaccinated — that’s — that’s not exactly the right metric to be using.
But we’re very excited for the announcement —
THE PRESIDENT: Good point.
GOVERNOR COX: — to roll out younger people to get vaccinated because Utah has more of them than anywhere else. Mr. President, we’re really good at having kids here. So we’re excited to — to have that that opportunity.
When you talk about hesitancy though, I want to mention that it’s most important to be very flexible and adaptable. What was working a month ago isn’t necessarily going to work today. Of course, we have a vision for where we want to go, and where we are in this phase of the vaccination campaign.
Data collection is absolutely critical — and this is something I want to mention that Governor DeWine just touched on — but what we — while some states go into the field to do some polling, we are in the field every day of every week, constantly getting new data to understand that population that is remaining that hasn’t gotten the vaccine. And I think that’s — that’s really important for everyone to understand.
We often just talk about the vaccine hesitanc- — hesitant population as one big group, but it’s really — it’s really much more than that. I like to think we’ve moved from what I call the “vaccine-ecstatic” and the “vaccine-excited phase,” and we’re now in the “vaccine-busy” or the “vaccine-curious phase.” These aren’t people that refuse to get it, they’re just — they just haven’t gotten around to it yet. And I think we have to approach all of these groups a little differently.
But with that data, that’s allowed us to really focus on three specific areas that — the why, the who, and the where.
To overcome this vaccine hesitancy, we designed a public information campaign that not only answers questions and resolves concerns, but it helps people understand that getting the vaccine is the way to get back to the things that we all love, that we all want to do — you know, weddings and family reunions; Utah Jazz games — the best team in the league right now; churches; hugging grandparents; quinceañeras — all of those things that we care about.
We want people to understand that the vaccine is really the key to ending that. And that’s one area where we could use some help from the White House and others, and that is modeling what a fully vaccinated person can do.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR COX: I would like to say that we have fully vaccinated people; we should start acting like it. And that’s a big motivation get the unvaccinated to — to want to — to get vaccinated.
THE PRESIDENT: Good point.
GOVERNOR COX: Next up, we focused on the “who.” And, I think, Mr. President, this — this may be the most important of all.
Through our research, it became clear that people trust their family doctors; their local community leaders and church leaders; their family, friends, and neighbors a lot more than they trust government on this issue.
So, we’ve been working directly with those different voices to empower them and give them a platform to encourage vaccinations, which leads to the third — and the other governors have talked about this, so I won’t take as much time — but the “where” is so important for this next phase and the next group of people now that we have enough vaccine for — for everyone.
And so we — these mobile pop-up clinics that we’re talking about really matter. And when you partner with those — the “who” — the right voices in the community — so, for example, in our Latino community, we’re working with churches and pastors who will bring these mobile pop-up clinics right to the church where people can go and get those vaccinations.
We’ve opened a portal to any organization in our state — businesses, churches, nonprofits, summer camps. Anyone that wants a mobile vaccination clinic can request one. We go directly to them. They have a party; people can come and get vaccinated.
And we’re finding that those trusted voices are helping us with that next phase of people who are — who are a little unsure or just didn’t have enough time to get around to it. We’re taking out all of the excuses to not get a vaccine.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR COX: And that — that’s where we are now, Mr. President. We’re excited as we continue to reach towards that goal of getting 70 percent of our adults vaccinated.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re doing a heck of a job. And the idea you’re talking about is what we, nationally, can do, in terms of making — drawing a portrait of what it means if you’re fully vaccinated, what you can do and what you can’t do, relative to the rest of the population. And we’re just getting there now to the degree that I think you’re going to see a more aggressive effort on our part to lay out that, once vaccinated, it’s not only you can hug your grandchildren, you can do a lot more — and whether or not you have to have even, at some point soon, masks inside versus outside.
I mean, so, we’re — and if anything, we’ve been — we’ve gone a little slower to make sure we’re exactly right as — in terms of the percent of the population that has been vaccinated — the adult population.
But, I think, Jeff, we’re going to be moving on that in the next little bit, aren’t we?
MR. ZIENTS: Yeah. I think we expect more and more guidance from the CDC —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
MR. ZIENTS: — for vaccinated people.
THE PRESIDENT: And, you know, it’s — it’s not everything, but it’s — I think you’re right about it would increase the prospects of the desire to get vaccinated, you know, as well.
One of the things — Tim, what are you seeing up in your state right now?
GOVERNOR WALZ: Well, first of all, thank you, Mr. President, for making this opportunity available. I’ll echo our thanks to Jeff Zients and his team. They — they pick up the phone no matter what the question is, and they get us answers.
I’d like to give a special thank you to the other governors who are on here. They have been a source of information and inspiration — best practices — as we share together.
And I would certainly associate myself with Governor Cox’s remarks when it comes to confidence and how to get it done. I do think making that connection of what it means to get vaccinated and get it done quickly — we saw here in Minnesota, where, along with Michigan, we saw a spike here recently in this latest surge around the B117 variant.
But because of the availability of the vaccine, the speed that it had gotten out, we were able to blunt that. And — and what that meant was — is hospitals did not become overwhelmed. We did not have to close back down doing many of the things we were doing. And the most important thing is far fewer people died from that.
So this idea of getting it into arms and getting it out there has real-world consequences. And — and I do agree; the confidence is based on the data. Governor Cox is exactly right. We believe in the data. We believe in transparency.
And for the governors who are on here, this is, kind of, the bane of our existence of trying to get this data because it gets pounced on — “You’re not doing this; you’re doing that.”
But I think being transparent, open, and use that data with the public shows them you measure what you care about, and that’s how we focus —
THE PRESIDENT: Yep.
GOVERNOR WALZ: — much like, it sounds like, Utah. And my guess is many others are doing it.
But each state is a little different. And I think we had some built-in advantages. One is we had trusted third-party validators, like the Mayo Clinic, to be able to validate some of this data.
But we also have a tradition here — we — we had the highest voter turnout in the last election. We also had the highest census return. I’m sure that’s to the angst of New York, but we were able to do that. And the strategies that it takes to get people to vote — like Governor Cox said, some are very enthusiastic about it. Some, maybe, go if they have the opportunity. Same thing with the census.
So what we understood was — is: The folks who make those so successful are local trusted partners, as you have heard.
THE PRESIDENT: Yep.
GOVERNOR WALZ: And one of the great success stories is — is listening to those folks who know how to do it.
Here in Minnesota, we have 11 sovereign Tribal nations. They did this better than anybody else in the country. They focused on their elders. They focused on multi-generational households. And they focused on delivering where people were at.
That same model — we’re, kind of, one of the centers of pork and poultry production. Those facilities were some of the hardest hit.
THE PRESIDENT: Yep.
GOVERNOR WALZ: They are — many of them are communities of color and immigrant community. There are multi-generational households that can spread amongst a nexus of Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota. And those communities had many reasons to be hesitant: They were hit hard. There were casualties. There was a lack of trust in those communities.
So there’s a story that got told on PBS NewsHour. A young organizer named Jessica Velasco used some of those principles in her community where she was well known — knocked door to door. And we saw some of the highest rates of uptake on the first days — above 70 percent — in these facilities where we were doing multigenerational vaccinations.
So it — again, it’s not assuming these people are hesitant, they’re ideologically opposed; it’s trying to understand where they’re at, what are the differences. Some are going to respond differently to different groups. And then just candid — these — these outreach — the buses. The pulling into parking lots.
Tonight, I see Governor Baker there. I’ll be at the — the St. Paul Saints opener — a Twins affiliate — and we’re giving vaccinations to folks coming through the gate as they come there. They know that a vaccinated Saints fan is someone in the seats. And it’s starting to connect all these with partners.
And when I got my vaccine, I was glad I took my friend along — a predecessor of mine, former Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.
THE PRESIDENT: Yep.
GOVERNOR WALZ: And we got vaccinated together. And my message to folks: There’s — there’s a lot of good reasons to get vaccinated. But for some of them, you know, if you need another one, go get vaccinated so you’re alive to vote against me in the next election. (Laughter.) I don’t care. I just want to get it done.
And I think this idea of not shaming people, not thinking that it wasn’t there, understanding that maybe you have an expecting mother who wants more information, data, third-party validators, and then trusted delivery methods of this. And we use the voting census model on a way to get that out there, and then partnered and brought it to where people are at.
And I’m proud to say we’re at 64 percent of your goal today, Mr. President. We will be there, but I think all of us know this is going to be a little longer process —
THE PRESIDENT: Yep.
GOVERNOR WALZ: — but folks are coming along. So I want to thank you for highlighting this, and I want to thank the fellow governors for all the advice and good ideas they’ve been able to give to us.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Tim, you’ve been a standup guy, and — going out and — and just reaching out to every — every place you can.
And one of the things that I found — and I’ve been to an awful lot of vaccination sites around the country and in my home state — is that it really does get down to — for that person who allegedly is an anti-vaxxer, it gets down, in many cases, just to convenience. Like you’re walking through the gate — “Oh, yeah, okay. Yeah, I’m here. Go ahead. You know, give me a shot. I can do it.”
And that’s what I — I’ve been so impressed. And it doesn’t surprise me, actually, that governors and local officials are really good at knowing how to do that. It’s a little bit like, you know, getting out the census, as you said.
So I appreciate that.
Now I — you know, before we hear from the final two governors, I want to bring my top advisor on health equity and —
Governor [Dr.] Marcella Nunez-Smith. And — “Governor”; I made her a governor — Doctor. I just — I’m not sure whether you view as a promotion or a demotion, but I think it’s a promotion.
But at any rate, tell us what’s going on, and give us a quick overview of the work you’ve been doing to — do — to ensure the equity response. Because we’ve been told that — you know, that, in fact — anyway, I’ll let you do the talking here.
DR. NUNEZ-SMITH: Thank you so much. Good afternoon, Mr. President. Good afternoon, governors. It’s just so very good to be with you today. I want to echo and thank you so much to you on your teams — all that you’re doing to center equity in your vaccination campaigns.
As you’ve even referenced, it’s important for us to hold a very broad understanding of the many groups that have been hard hit by the pandemic. Just for the minutes today, though, I want to focus in on race and place, on people of color and virality in particular. And I want to share some of what we’re finding in the federal vaccination channels.
You know, from the very beginning, in those channels, it was key, as you all have done, to take a very intentional approach to center on equity. In the federal program, that meant taking a place-based approach. We recognize, in our country, ZIP Code is still a stronger predictor of health than genetic code. And so, we anchor in the location and place to make sure that we’re getting those resources to the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities.
So, setting up direct allocation to our country’s community health centers, and including to rural health clinics, to local independent chain pharmacies, and, of course, to the community vaccination centers, and, as so many of you have referenced already, supporting mobile capacity — that is key to meeting people exactly where they are.
So I want to share with you some of the demographic data. We have high-quality demographic data that lift up and echo the need for data to drive our response.
And so, in the federal vaccination channels, what we see is encouraging. You know, about 70 percent of vaccinations at community health centers have been administered to people of color. And that number is 60 percent for the community vaccination centers, and those are all — all of them — located in hard-hit communities. And over 40 percent of the pharmacies in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are located in high-risk areas. And if we look in the last two weeks, over 46 percent of those pharmacy doses have been administered to people of color.
So, of course, there is absolutely more work to do. As you all illustrate, equity work, reaching to communities, that’s hyper local — so key to recognize that communities are the experts in what they need. And to partner — as the examples have really showed, partnering with trusted, local community leaders is a must.
So we’re all looking forward together as the vaccination efforts charge on — prioritizing access, focusing in on ease and convenience, and addressing those structural barriers we begin to talk about — making sure people have the opportunity to get connected to vaccine without an appointment, making sure that there is paid time off for vaccination and any recovery time, and thinking about other things like transportation and providing that assistance.
So in addition to making sure that everyone has access to vaccination, we have to make sure they have access to the accurate information about vaccines from the people that they know from the people that they trust.
So making sure that everyone — that is, every person, every community can benefit from this scientific discovery — we can all agree that’s how we all, together, get to the other side of the pandemic.
So just as I wrap, I want to say: We know equity does not happen by default, and it never has. So thank you for all you’re doing for sustaining this commitment and, of course, for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much.
And now, I want to bring in Governor Baker of Massachusetts and Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, who have been focused on equity in their states responsible — and respond to this pandemic.
And, first, to you, Gov — Governor Baker. Can you share with us how the Commonwealth is making sure that every community has an access and information and opportunity to get vaccinated?
And tell me, if you don’t mind — give me — give me your opinion on whether you think Lyft and — and, you know, with these two outfits are going to provide free transportation. It that seems to me, where I come from, a lot of the communities of color use these facilities and — because they don’t have automobiles.
So anyway, I don’t want to hold you up from the game here either, Charlie, but you’ve been doing a hell of a job across the board. You really have. Hope that doesn’t ruin your reputation —
GOVERNOR BAKER: Well —
THE PRESIDENT: — coming from a Democrat, but you’re doing a hell of job.
GOVERNOR BAKER: (Laughs.) Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr. President. And I’m going to also give Jeff Zients and his team a shout-out for all the work they’ve been doing to help us help you, the American people, succeed in getting vaccinated.
Massachusetts is number two in the country. We have about 74 percent of our adult population that’s gotten a first dose. My friends north of us in Vermont are ahead of us, and we’re going to do all we can to catch up to them.
But our program was basically what I refer to as a “mixed model.” Our mass vaccination sites did about a million shots, but we also had regional collaboratives with local boards of health and local providers in areas where we had a lot of geography between and among people. We had tremendous participation from our healthcare community, all the way from the hospital systems to the physician offices. And our community health centers were a big part of the show for us very early on.
And — and with respect to equity, one of the places we started, straight out of the gate, was a big, aggressive program to do outreach to congregate care. And this meant, you know, group homes that take care of people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. It meant hitting a lot of the senior sites that weren’t part of the Pharmacy Program. It also meant — it also meant going after homeless shelters and some of the folks who worked in and were residents there.
And — and I think, in many ways, that approach — which, you know, sort of targeted a variety of different objectives early on — is the way we framed it all the way through.
And our community health centers — to just sort of follow up on several previous comments — have been big players for us. And — and in some cases, they’ve been partnering with hospitals and with churches and senior centers and community centers and mobile vaccine players to do pop-up clinics.
And it’s very interesting. When you have — when you have the muscle of a big hospital system, that can be a big supporter of a community health center, that’s running a program in conjunction with them in a church or a community center or a senior center, you basically got all the trusted voices in that particular neighborhood working together, delivering the same message, which is that this is a good idea and this is something that you should be willing to do.
And we, of course, track our data as well. And we’ve managed to successfully vaccinate, so far, our Hispanic community, our Asian community, our Black community in rates that’s right up there with our white community as well. We still have some work to do there, but we’ve made a lot of progress.
And — and, I guess, I would say that I think the transportation issue is a big deal, and the decision to include folks like Lyft and Uber in this can make a big difference.
We have special programs for the homebound folks —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR BAKER: — that we do in conjunction with our local boards of health, where they are literally identifying populations that can’t get to a vaccination site no matter how close it might be, and making sure that we’re going out and meeting them where they are and making sure they get vaccinated the same way everybody else does.
I think the other thing I would say is that, for all of us, one of our great opportunities and our great challenges to get over — whether it’s hesitancy or equity or more confidence — is the more people see this happening among their friends and their families and —
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
GOVERNOR BAKER: — coworkers, the more likely they are to sign up and say, “You know what? I’m willing to play.” And — and the walk-up stuff has made a big difference too.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR BAKER: I was visiting — I was visiting one of our pop-up sites last week, and they had about 50 or 60 appointment visits; they had 700 walk-ups.
And I think — I think the walk-up stuff can be a really big deal in terms of making sure that we create other opportunities for people, especially younger people. I got three kids in their 20s. I’m well aware of how they feel about appointment scheduling. (Laughter.)
I think, in many ways, as we move — as we move down the age quartiles here, being able to just make this available in a bunch of different locations and recognizing and understanding that everybody doesn’t work off a calendar and a schedule is going to be a big part getting this done.
We’ve also been talking to our primary care docs and our pediatricians about how they’re going to help — and our schools — about how they’re going to help us with the folks under the age of 16 — the 12-to-15 community.
And I think, in many ways, the biggest thing we, as governors, have tried to do is pursue a variety of data-driven approaches based on what we’re hearing from people on the ground and recognizing and understanding that the same approach isn’t going to work in every place, and you got to be willing to be flexible and put a lot of different approaches into the mix to get this done.
Now, let me just close, again, by saying how much we appreciate the chance we’ve had to work with your administration on this. And we’re going to work really hard to make sure we get everybody who wants a vaccine vaccinated by the Fourth of July.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks, Charlie. Thank you. You’re doing a hell of a job.
Governor Lujan Grisham, what about New Mexico? How’re you doing out there?
GOVERNOR GRISHAM: You know, we — as my good friend and colleague Governor Baker mentioned that we were leading and now all of these fantastic governors and so many more are chasing us or eclipsing us.
And this positive — as you say, Mr. President — approach to getting every American vaccinated is making a difference. And we are effective collaborators. And with your team and Jeff Zients and others, it provides the kind of ecosystem for us to leverage any number of best practices.
And as I’m — I can tell you that we’re going to meet your goal and exceed it by shots — first shots — 70 percent by July 4th. And we’ve made a statement that, by July 1, we’re going to hit all of our targets.
But I want to tell you, for a multicultural incred- — a minority-majority state — 23 sovereign nations in New Mexico, Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
GOVERNOR GRISHAM: They’re going to have 70 percent or more of their population with two shots by July 4th, and probably earlier. And we have some sovereign nations that have a 95 percent, two shots in arms, fully vaccinated population.
And it’s been a very effective partnership with sovereign nations, Indian Health Service, the federal government, and your COVID team under your leadership. And it’s made a remarkable difference because they were being hit hard.
But I’m going to focus on a couple of things that we did a bit differently that I think really contributed to our ability to make sure that we were equity focused and equity driven. We had the first-in-the-nation registration system. And while I do agree it’s — registering, for a 16- or 17-year-old, may not be optimum, I was actually pleasantly surprised at the number of New Mexicans who early registered for a vaccine.
And that data then allowed us to see whether or not we were getting minority populations; whether we were getting to rural and frontier areas in the state; whether highly concentrations of extreme poverty — whether we were getting to those areas, which meant that we could then drive vaccine, both access and delivery, to those populations. And like every state, we used that system to do now walk-ins and pop-ups.
And any business can get on our site or call us or communicate with us in any number of ways — no wrong door — and we’ll come to you. We’ll set up, automatically, a vaccine site, as you’ve heard, at a church, at a business, at a grocery store, at a library, at a pediatrician’s office — anywhere, everywhere in the state. And we’re also using mobile clinics.
The third thing that we are doing that we believe will also continue to do that equity-focused investment: We set aside 25 percent of our vaccines at the very earliest to make sure that we always had equity-driven vaccine access. But New Mexico has more than 50 percent — more than half of our population, Mr. President, is on Medicaid.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
GOVERNOR GRISHAM: Now we can use that Medicaid data — and I can tell you, both from an equity standpoint and just an access standpoint, I can tell every primary care physician who in their patient population is yet to be vaccinated and push those vaccines into those doctor’s offices by utilizing Medicaid information.
And it’s that same utilization data that tells me who’s on hospice, who’s homebound, who’s got a disability so that we can continue to make sure that we close the gap every single day in terms of New Mexicans who are yet to be vaccinated.
And I also think that the equity numbers can improve by many of the incentives that you’re hearing about. And I’m going to use Medicaid as another tool for incentives. You can, in Medicaid, have kind of a points reward system for people to engage in improving their health outcomes.
So we maximize — we give you more of those points so that you can buy sports equipment for your family and kids, so that you can engage in fresh farmers markets.
And this is another way that we get these really hard-to-reach populations — using Medicaid as a huge driver and our registry system. So data — making sure that we’re pushing vaccines into the communities and then into the arms of New Mexicans every single day. And it — it is working.
And so I’m very proud of those systems that we’ve stood up, and we’re using every single other thing that the other governors have talked about. And we are committed, Mr. President, to all of us continuing this collaboration.
Every time somebody has a good idea — I heard about hunting and fishing licenses; I’m on it. So every time somebody has a good idea, we’re deploying it, and we appreciate your support to do that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’ve done an incredible job. And I know you know Jill — I’m Jill’s husband — has been out to Navajo Nation now on three occasions.
And one of the things that I — just a closing comment. I’m — I’m trespassing on your time, I know. But I am of the view — and I’ve been characterized as a congenital optimist, so maybe you can discount what I’m about to say.
But I think the experience we’ve had with what has been one of the — because of all of your work — the — maybe the signi- — the most significant, major logistical undertaking that we’ve ever done, short of war, here — getting all this out and done; I mean, continuing to get it done — I think we’re going to find the lessons you’ve all learned and we’ve all learned from this are going to apply to a whole hell of a lot more of what we do in terms of delivering healthcare.
And I’m not talking about more government spend- — I’m talking about being able to communicate and connect people with basic healthcare.
And there’s new science going on right now about the mRNA, you know, capacity to be able to adjust to maybe even dealing with cancer and other diseases. And I think that — I think that is — we’re — there are going to be other — other pandemics. And we’ve got to — and I’m dealing with other world leaders about how we’re going to deal with it because you can’t — you can’t build a wall high enough to keep a virus out.
But I’m of the — I am optimistic. I think we’re going to see, in the next three or four years, the ability to provide access to and uptake of significant additional healthcare initiatives that are going to affect everything from the basic scientific research, the companies like Pfizer and others are going to be doing with their m- — m- — (laughs) —
MR. ZIENTS: mRNA.
THE PRESIDENT: — mRNA vaccines, as well as applying it to other diseases as well, and some of them communicable diseases.
But at any rate, I just want to thank you all. You know, you’ve done — you’ve been great partners in this effort, and I hope we haven’t been an impediment. We’ve — I’ve — we’ve tried like hell — no, I really mean it — we’ve tried like hell to include and engage you all as much as we possibly could and not get in the way.
I know, occasionally, you know, when I — I got some criticism when I decided we were going to engage the — the public health clinics around the country and get them involved, and — not from you all, but, you know, from others. And — but I think you’ve done incredible work. And it’s why I think — I think we get a lot more done at the state level, in terms of cooperation among Democrats and Republicans, than we do federally.
And so, none — none of this could’ve worked without your leadership. I really mean it. I’m not trying to be solicitous. I’m being completely honest. So thank you, thank you, thank you.
I think you’re responsible — I know you’re responsible for saving thousands of lives. The idea we’ve lost well over 550,000 lives — more than every war we fought combined in one year, basically — is astounding. And imagine what it would be if we didn’t have you all doing what you did.
So, thank you, thank you, thank you. And one other thing you’re going to be hearing about — it wasn’t supposed to be part of what I’m talking about — but every country in the world is now looking to us to provide for their lack of capacity to produce and/or have vaccines. I’m not going to shortcut the United States of America. I promise you we’re going to have enough vaccine for every single American. But we are going to be engaged in working with other countries because there are going to be a lot of variants that are going to be coming from other countries that we’re going to have to be aware of as well.
But — and I may get back to all of you for some ideas on how I go about doing that, but I think we can produce a whole hell of a lot more vaccines that we can make available. There are already — how many we got out?
MR. ZIENTS: We’ve committed to 60 million doses.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re not using AstraZeneca vaccine. And I’ve committed the distribution of 60 million doses to two other countries — our neighboring countries — who are desperately in need of vaccines.
But there’s just an awful lot. I literally have virtually 40 percent of the world leaders calling and asking can we help them, and we’re going to try.
But at any rate, I just want to thank you again for what you’ve done. You’ve been wonderful, and I look forward to seeing you all in person as soon as we get everybody that — we — we get above that 70 percent. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
MR. ZIENTS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Appreciate it. Thanks.
2:08 P.M. EDT