May 11, 2021
Joe Biden Meeting with Bipartisan Group of Governors on Vaccine Distribution Transcript May 11
President Joe Biden met with a group of bipartisan governors on May 11, 2021 to discuss COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Read the transcript of the briefing remarks here.
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President Biden: (00:00)
… over here and not at you guys, but we got six governors with us today. Democrats and Republicans. And are 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. It’s great to connect with you all.
President Biden: (00:21)
You know, last week I provided an update on where we were with our vaccination program and what comes next. And I said, our goal by July the fourth is to have 70% 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 will succeed, we’re going to be able to take a serious step toward return to normalcy by Independence Day, which is a goal that was not arbitrarily, but based on talking to the docs, thought if we did what we’d had to do, we could meet. There’s a lot of work to do though to get there, but I believe we can get there. Part of the reason I’m so confident is because of your leadership, the governors. And your partnership with us. The governors with us today, and their counterparts have been instrumental in helping us make progress 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. Today more than 150 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. Over 115 million Americans are fully vaccinated.
President Biden: (01:41)
Nearly 85% 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 who 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.
President Biden: (02:24)
I know everybody’s tired of hearing me say this online here, but it isn’t Democratic progress and Republican progress, it’s American progress. 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 you go through it, and I’ve had a chance to meet with the governor’s conference and others, but we decided from the very beginning, as you all remember … How many govs did you speak with in the last … today?
Jeff Zients: (02:54)
Well, today we had our weekly call.
President Biden: (02:55)
Jeff Zients: (02:55)
So most governors attend that call, which is great.
President Biden: (02:59)
But the point is, we know we want to get something done. It’s all about governors and mayors and county executives, 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 answer 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 we enter this next phase. And to help us get there, we’ve added two new tools. One, Americans can go to www.vaccines.gov, or they can text their zip code to 438829.
President Biden: (04:02)
I’m going to 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. The governors, 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.
President Biden: (04:56)
Just yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for children, 12 to 15 years of age. 12 to 15. That means parents who want to protect their children, younger teens want to get vaccinated, we’re a step closer to that goal now. Today I’m also announcing additional steps to ensure that transportation is less of a barrier, from May 24 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. It makes it easy for students who will work with federal pharmacy partners to bring on campus vaccine sites to dozens of the nation’s largest community colleges this summer.
President Biden: (06:01)
I want to thank the governors here for making it easy as possible for students to get vaccinated. 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 in workplaces and houses of worship. And so once again, governors, and 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.
President Biden: (06:52)
So the idea that we have six of the best governors have worked on this with me today is really a pleasure. And all of you have done a remarkable job. 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 in improving access, building confidence and ensuring equity.
President Biden: (07:19)
I’d 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’d like to ask you, how are you reaching out to people and encouraging them to get vaccinated and what kind of success you having?
Governor Mills: (07:43)
Thank you, Mr. President, and 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, but the people of our state believe in the science and they have followed public health protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
Governor Mills: (08:12)
Now, we are closing in on the 70% of adults that you want us to close in on. 70% of adults in Maine having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The goal you set, right now we’re at 67%.
President Biden: (08:26)
Governor Mills: (08:27)
And about 53% 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 lower 48, with small cities, with towns surrounded by blueberry barrens, potato fields, and forest, 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?”
Governor Mills: (09:05)
We’re also the oldest state in the nation. With more than 20% of our population being over 65. So low population density and age are big challenges. When we began this massive logistical undertaking, getting vaccines into arms, we focused on equity, we focused on addressing what made us the 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 the age of 60. As the supply increased, thank you very much, and as 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.
Governor Mills: (10:11)
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 mountaintop home to be the first line at the pharmacy one morning. If you build it, we thought, they will come. With remarkable cooperation by our big healthcare systems, we started with a 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-through 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.
Governor Mills: (11:07)
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 LL 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 ball game or a race event, a free fishing license or hunting license, or a gift card for outdoor gear.
Governor Mills: (11:52)
We’re calling this, “Your shot to get outdoors.” Oh, it’s corny, I know, but 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. Thank you.
President Biden: (12:24)
Gov, thank you. Thank you. I think that it’s remarkable what you’re doing and you know, I … excuse me. I’ll get back. I want to hear from Mike first, then want to ask you both a question, if I may. Mike. Gov. Fire away. Ohio.
Governor DeWine: (12:44)
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, in the fact that he listens and we were on the phone again today, so that’s very, very helpful to us.
Governor DeWine: (12:57)
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 1900 locations where people can get the shot. In addition to that, we have new pop-up places every day. We have the mobile clinics out as well, and that’s worked exceedingly well. We started early on with pharmacies and we think that has been very important, as well as our health departments, as well as our federally qualified clinics and our hospitals.
Governor DeWine: (13:39)
We have a lot of nursing homes and a lot of assisted living in Ohio. I think over 1700. And of course we had a lot of deaths there. And so 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-
Governor DeWine: (14:03)
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.
Governor DeWine: (14:30)
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. And it’s the local health departments, it’s the mayors, it’s the counties. They’re the ones where really the action is. 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 they need, what we can do to help them.
Governor DeWine: (15:11)
We try to get them right away, whatever they need. But we also hear from them the innovation that they’re doing. And the innovation as you said at the beginning 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… 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.
Governor DeWine: (15:57)
And 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 working with our labor unions. We’ve done it working with businesses. A lot of innovation going on in businesses. And what we’ve found is the businesses that have us come in 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 taking that directly 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 continue to push out and go to where people are.
Governor DeWine: (16:47)
We have some health departments who are literally out knocking on doors. We have mobile clinics going around. And we want to reach people exactly where they are. Just a couple of observations though. There certainly has been a appetite for the Johnson & Johnson. We’re seeing that there’re people who really want Johnson & Johnson. They want that one shot and to be done. There also clearly was an appetite for walkup clinics. And so most of the clinics in Ohio, as you said, are open for walk-ups and 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.
Governor DeWine: (17:27)
Finally, we’re very, very excited about being able to vaccinate 12, 13, 14, and 15 year olds. And we’ve got plans in schools. We also have plans in the summer with boys club and girls clubs, feeding programs, and other things, trying to take this to where people are. So thank you for doing this, Mr. President.
President Biden: (17:48)
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 free tickets and vouchers. My guess is that’s probably going to work. Do you have any-
Governor Mills: (18:17)
I think so. We’re offering a great spectrum of things and I think there’ll be an incentive to those who are still, maybe still hesitant, people who would love to go to L.L.Bean or go online and 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. I think it’s a good incentive. I know other states are doing something different. Some are offering shots of booze, but… New Jersey, [crosstalk 00:18:50]-
President Biden: (18:50)
Can I ask 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. Are you driving around with docks in a pickup truck? Are you… No. I mean deadly earnest for people, this is being Zoomed. Talk to me about, if you each tell me what you’re doing.
Governor Mills: (19:23)
I’ve been through our mobile unit and it’s very attractive, very clean. It’s a big trailer kind of vehicle. And it’s staffed by people from the United States Public Health Service, and some National Guard, and some FEMA people. 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 back in their car for 15 minutes. You’re watched remotely and drive off feeling free and clear of COVID.
President Biden: (19:58)
Mike, how about you?
Governor DeWine: (20:00)
Mr. President, all mobile clinics are not alike, at least in Ohio. Just a couple of examples, so 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 cities. I was in Cincinnati this past 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 of the store and to bring the vaccine out.
Governor DeWine: (20:43)
So it’s going out, it’s trying to be innovative, trying to figure out, 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 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 the vaccine, they just haven’t got around to it yet. And so getting that person, getting them the vaccines, make it easy, make it convenient, I think is very important.
President Biden: (21:30)
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 how it practically is functioning, what you’re seeing from those efforts.
Spencer Cox: (22:00)
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 remarkable at helping us resolve all of those and mostly [crosstalk 00:22:13]-
President Biden: (22:12)
By the way, he doesn’t own any pharmacies. I just want you guys to know.
Spencer Cox: (22:17)
We’re very well aware, but thanks for allowing us to participate and highlight some of the good things [inaudible 00:22:23] doing and that are working well. By the way, just an aside to 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. And of course, a large, significant portion of our state that is not eligible to be vaccinated. That’s not exactly the right metric to be using, but we’re very excited for the-
President Biden: (22:53)
Spencer Cox: (22:53)
… announcements that allow 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 have that opportunity. When you talk about hesitancy though, I wanted 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 space 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…
Spencer Cox: (23:33)
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 really important for everyone to understand. We often just talk about the vaccine hesitant population as one big group, but it’s really much more than that. I like to say 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 [inaudible 00:24:10] phase. These are people that refuse to get it. They just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Spencer Cox: (24:17)
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, the why, the who, and 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. Weddings and family reunions, Utah Jazz games, the best team in the league right now, churches, hugging grandparents, quinceaneras, all of those things that we care about. We want people to understand that the vaccine is really the key to ending that.
Spencer Cox: (25:02)
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. I 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 want to get vaccinated.
President Biden: (25:20)
Spencer Cox: (25:21)
Next step we focus on the who. And I think Mr. President, 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 everyone.
Spencer Cox: (25:59)
And so these mobile pop-up clinics that we’re talking about really matters. And when you partner with those, the who, the right voices in a 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 a little unsure or just didn’t have enough time to get around to it.
Spencer Cox: (26:44)
We’re taking out all of the excuses for not getting vaccinated. And that’s where we are now, Mr. President, we’re excited as we continue to reach towards that goal of getting 70% of our [inaudible 00:26:54] vaccinated.
President Biden: (26:55)
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 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, mask inside versus outside. And if anything, we’ve gone a little slower to make sure we’re exactly right as terms of the percent of the population that has been vaccinated, the adult population.
President Biden: (27:49)
But I think Jeff, we’re going to be moving on that in the next little bit. [crosstalk 00:27:54]-
Yeah. I think we expect more and more guidance from the CDC for vaccinated people.
President Biden: (27:59)
And it’s not everything, but I think you’re right about-
President Biden: (28:03)
… it’s not everything, but I think you’re right about… It would increase the prospects of the desire to get vaccinated as well. Tim, what are you seeing up in your state right now?
Governor Walz: (28:21)
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 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 competence 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 what that meant was is hospitals did not become overwhelmed.
Governor Walz: (29:07)
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 I do agree, the competence 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 focused, much like, it sounds like, Utah. And my guess is many others are doing it, but each state’s a little different, and I think we had some built in advantages.
Governor Walz: (29:52)
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 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’ve heard, and one of the great success stories is listening to those folks who know how to do it. Here in Minnesota, we have 11 sovereign tribal nations.
Governor Walz: (30:33)
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. 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, and 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 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% in these facilities where we were doing multi-generational vaccinations. So 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 outreach, the buses, the pulling into parking lots… Tonight, I see Governor Baker’s there. I’ll be at 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, and we got vaccinated together. And my message to folks there is there’s a lot of good reasons to get vaccinated, but for some of them, if you need another one, go get vaccinated so you’re alive to vote against me in the next election.
Governor Walz: (32:23)
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 their… 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% 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, 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.
President Biden: (33:06)
Well, Tim, you’ve been a stand-up guy, going out and just re reaching out to every place you can. And one of the things that I’ve 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. You’re walking through the gate, “Oh, okay. I’m here, go ahead. Give me a shot, I can do it.” And that’s what 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 getting out the census, as you said, so I appreciate that.
President Biden: (33:54)
Now, before we hear from the final two governors, I want to bring my top advisor on health equity in, Governor Marcella Nunez-Smith. Governor, I made her a governor. Doctor. I’m not sure whether you view that 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 ensure the equity response, because we’ve been told that in fact… Anyway, I’ll let you do the talking here.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith: (34:34)
Thank you so much. Good afternoon, Mr. President. Good afternoon, Governor. It is just so very good to be with you today. I want to echo and thank you so much to you, all your teams, all that you’re doing to send your equity in your vaccination campaigns. As you 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. 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. [crosstalk 00:35:18] program that meant taking a place-based approach.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith: (35:22)
We recognized 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 rates communities, so setting up direct allocation to our country’s community health centers, including to rural health clinics, to local independent chain pharmacies, and of course to the community vaccination centers. And as so many of you 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, and lift up and echo the need for data to drive our response. And so in the federal vaccination channels, what we see is encouraging. About 70% of vaccinations at community health centers have been administered to people of color, and that number is 60% for the community vaccination centers. And those are all, all of them, located in hard-hit communities.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith: (36:27)
Over 40% 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% 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. It’s 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 you 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.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith: (37:33)
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.
President Biden: (38:14)
Well, thank you very much. Now, I want to bring in a Governor Baker of Massachusetts, and Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, who have been focused on equity and their state’s respond to this pandemic. And first to you, Governor Baker, can you share with us how the Commonwealth is making sure that every community has access and information and opportunity to get vaccinated? And tell me, if you don’t mind, give me your opinion whether you think Lyft and these two outfits are going to provide free transportation. It seems to me, where I come from, a lot of the communities of color use these facilities 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 coming from a Democrat, but you’re doing a hell of a job.
Governor Baker: (39:20)
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 of 74% 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 have 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.
Governor Baker: (40:12)
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 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 going after homeless shelters and some of the folks who worked and were residents there. And I think in many ways, that approach, which 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 sort of follow up on several previous comments, have been big players for us. 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.
Governor Baker: (41:09)
And it’s very interesting. When you have the muscle of a big hospital system that can be a big supporter of the community health center that’s running a program in conjunction with them in a church or community center or a senior center, you’ve 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 at 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 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 homebound folks that we do in conjunction with our local-
Governor Baker: (42:03)
… programs for home bound folks, 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.
Governor Baker: (42:19)
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 family and coworkers, the more likely they are to sign up and say, “You know what? I’m willing to play.” And the walk-up stuff has made a big difference too.
Governor Baker: (42:44)
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 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 twenties. I’m well aware of how they feel about appointment scheduling. I think in many ways, 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 of getting this done.
Governor Baker: (43:27)
We’ve also been talking to our primary care docs and our pediatricians 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 4th of July.
President Biden: (44:13)
Well, thanks Charlie. Thank you, you’re doing a hell of a job.
President Biden: (44:17)
Governor Lujan Grisham, what about New Mexico? How are you doing out there?
Governor Lujan Grisham: (44:22)
No, 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. I can tell you that we’re going to meet your goal and exceed it by, first shots, 70% by July 4th. And we’ve made a statement that by July 1, we’re going to hit all of our targets.
Governor Lujan Grisham: (45:11)
But I want to tell you, for a multicultural, a minority majority state, 23 sovereign nations in New Mexico, Mr. President, and they’re going to have 70% or more of their population with two shots by July 4th, and probably earlier. And we have some sovereign nations that have a 95% two shots in arms, fully vaccinated population. And it’s been a very effective partnership with sovereign nations, Indian Health Service, so the federal government, and your COVID team, under your leadership. And it’s made a remarkable difference, because they were being hit hard.
Governor Lujan Grisham: (45:50)
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. And we had the first in the nation registration system. And well, I do agree its registering for a 16 or a 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.
Governor Lujan Grisham: (46:34)
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.
Governor Lujan Grisham: (47:11)
The third thing that we are doing that we believe will also continue to do that equity focused investment, we set aside 25% 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%, more than half of our population, Mr. President, is on Medicaid. So 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 doctors’ offices by utilizing Medicaid information. And it’s that same utilization data, that tells me who’s on hospice, who’s home bound, 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.
Governor Lujan Grisham: (48:12)
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 gauge in fresh farmer’s markets. And this is another way that we get these really hard to reach populations using Medicaid as a huge driver in 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 is working.
Governor Lujan Grisham: (49:05)
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’re 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.
President Biden: (49:34)
Well, you’ve done an incredible job. And I know you know Jill, I’m Jill’s husband, been out to Navajo Nation now on three occasions. And one of the things that… Just a closing comment, 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, maybe the most significant major logistical undertaking that we’ve ever done, short of war here. Getting all this out and done every, continuing 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.
President Biden: (50:41)
And I’m not talking about more government spending. I’m talking about be able to communicate and connect people with basic healthcare. And there’s new science going on right now about the mRNA capacity, to be able to adjust to maybe even dealing with cancer and other diseases. And I think that they’re going to be 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 build a wall high enough to keep a virus out. But 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-
Speaker 2: (51:41)
President Biden: (51:45)
… 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’ve been great partners in this effort and I hope we haven’t been an impediment. We’ve tried like hell, 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, I got some criticism when I decided we were going to engage the public health clinics around the country and get them involved, and not from you all, but from others. But I think you’ve done an incredible work. And that’s why 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 of this could have worked without your leadership.
President Biden: (52:58)
I really mean that. 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’ve 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.
President Biden: (53:27)
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’re 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. 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. We’re already… How many have we got out of the-
Speaker 2: (54:14)
We’ve committed to 60 million doses.
President Biden: (54:17)
Well, we’re not using the 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% 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, we get above that 70%. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Speaker 2: (54:55)
President Biden: (54:56)
Governor Lujan Grisham: (54:59)
Thank you, Mr. President.
Speaker 1: (54:59)
President Biden: (54:59)
Speaker 3: (54:59)
Speaker 4: (54:59)
Thank you, sir.
President Biden: (55:01)
They’re a good bunch.
Speaker 2: (55:02)