Jan 26, 2021
Joe Biden Press Conference on COVID-19 & Vaccine Distribution Transcript January 26
President Joe Biden spoke about his COVID-19 response on January 26, 2021. He discussed plans to ramp up vaccine distribution. Read the transcript of his briefing remarks here.
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Joe Biden: (00:00)
I’m accompanied by Jeff Zients who’s heading up our whole COVID team. And today, what I’d like to do is to update you on where we are. Tomorrow, we’re going to begin the briefings that’ll occur on a regular basis with Mr. Zients and his team. So we’re bringing back the Pros to talk about COVID in an unvarnished way, any questions you have. That’s how we’ll handle them because we’re letting science speak again.
Joe Biden: (00:32)
So, I’d like to update you on the aggressive steps were taken to meet our goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots within 100 days, and to ramp up the vaccine supply as fast as we can. This’ll be one of the most difficult operational challenges we’ve ever undertaken as a nation. I’ve said that before, but I must say it again because we’re going to do everything we can to get it done. But a lot of things can go wrong along the way.
Joe Biden: (01:07)
And so as I’ve said in the past, we want to give credit to everyone involved in this vaccine effort and the prior administration and the science community and the medical sphere for getting the program… I didn’t do it, I promise… for getting the program off the ground, and that credit is absolutely due. But it’s also no secret that we have recently discovered, in the final days of the transition… And it wasn’t until the final days that we got the kind of cooperation we needed, that once we arrived the vaccine program is in a worse shape than we anticipated or expected.
Joe Biden: (01:46)
A lot of you follow this and nobody is… I mean this sincerely, the press is the smartest group of people in town. You hone this stuff down clearly. I think you found the same thing. Even before I took office, I announced a new vaccination strategy which centers on federal leadership and execution for our whole country. And that’s why I directed my COVID team to go to work immediately on how we could step up the vaccination efforts and the vaccinations.
Joe Biden: (02:16)
I’m pleased to announce the first progress and at work today, and on day seven of my presidency. First, after review of the current vaccine supply in manufacturing plants, I can announce that we will increase overall weekly vaccination distributions of states, tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. Starting next week, that’s an issue increase of 1.4 million doses per week.
Joe Biden: (02:48)
And you all know, if I may say parenthetically, you all know that the vaccines were distributed to states based on population, based on population. And so, the smaller the state, the less vaccine. The bigger the state, the more they get. And so this is going to allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We’ve got a long way to go though.
Joe Biden: (03:11)
The second thing, we’re increasing the transparency with states, cities and tribes and local partners when it comes to the vaccine supply. This is something we’ve heard over and over again from both Democrats and Republicans, state and local leaders that they need a plan in order to… They need to know what they have to plan on. They need to know what the orders going to be.
Joe Biden: (03:34)
Jeff had a meeting with the governors on Zoom and others and I think we’re getting this coordinated in a way that there’s increased cooperation and confidence. But until now we’ve had to guess how much vaccine to expect for the next week, and that’s what the governors had to do. “How much am I getting next week?” This is unacceptable. Lives are at stake here.
Joe Biden: (04:01)
From this week forward, God willing, we’ll ensure that states, tribes and territories will now always have a reliable three week forecast on what the supply they’re going to get. So they’ll know, three weeks ahead of time, what’s going to be there in the third week. This is going to help make sure governors, mayors and local leaders have greater certainty around supply so they can carry out their plans to vaccinate as many people as possible.
Joe Biden: (04:27)
So, we will both increase the supply in the short term by more than 15% and give our states and local partners more certainty about when the deliveries will arrive. These two steps are going to help increase our prospects of hitting or exceeding, God-willing, the ambitious goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.
Joe Biden: (04:52)
But I also want to be clear, 100 million shots in 100 days is not the end point. It’s just the start. We’re not stopping there. The end goal is to beat COVID-19. And the way we do that is to get more people vaccinated, which means we have to be ready after we hit the ground… We have to hit the goal of 100 million shots in 100 days. Now that means fewer than 100 million people getting totally vaccinated. It means 100 shots. And it means somewhere between 60, maybe less maybe more, million people will have the… Because it requires two shots in many cases, not always.
Joe Biden: (05:31)
Today I’m directing COVID-19 Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients here, to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to increase our total supply of vaccine for the American people. And we believe that we’ll soon be able to confirm the purchase of an additional 100 billion doses for each of the two FDA authorized vaccine, Pfizer and Moderna. That’s 100 million more doses of Pfizer and 100 million more doses of Moderna. 200 million more doses than the federal government had previously secured, not in hand yet, but ordered.
Joe Biden: (06:08)
We expect these additional 200 million doses to be delivered this summer. And some of it will begin to come in early summer, but by the mid summer that this vaccine will be there. That increases the total vaccine order in the United States by 50%, from 400 million ordered to 600 million. This enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 Americans by end of the summer, the beginning of the fall. I want to repeat, it will be enough to fully vaccinate 300 Americans to beat this pandemic, 300 million Americans.
Joe Biden: (06:53)
This is an aggregate plan that doesn’t leave anything on the table or anything to chance, as we’ve seen happen in the past year. I’ve said before, this is a war-time effort. When I say that people ask, “War time?” I say, “Yeah,” more than 400,000 Americans have already died, I think it’s 411 or 12, have died in one year of this pandemic. More than all the people who died and all the Americans who died in World War II.
Joe Biden: (07:27)
This is a war-time undertaking, it’s not hyperbole. And as such, I directed the team to be ready to exercise all the authorities I have under the Defense Production Act and expedite these vaccines. And we’re using the Defense Production Act to launch full-scale war-time effort to address the supply shortages we inherited from the previous administration.
Joe Biden: (07:51)
We’re going to be working across the government with private industry to ramp up our production of vaccine and protective equipment, the syringes, the needles, the gloves, the swabs, and the mask. Everything that’s needed to protect, test, vaccinate and take care of our people.
Joe Biden: (08:07)
Well, we’ve already identified suppliers and we’re working with them to move our plan forward. The biggest problem, I hope you’re all asking by the end of the summer, that you have too much vaccine leftover, you have too much equipment leftover. That’s not my worry. I hope that becomes the problem, rather than we somehow find interruptions in supply or access. These aggressive steps to increase vaccine supply come on top of the steps we took last week to get more people vaccinated for free. To create more places for them to get vaccinated and to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people’s arms.
Joe Biden: (08:47)
We’ve directed FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stand up the first federally supported community vaccination centers and that work is underway. We’re working to make vaccines available to thousands of local pharmacies beginning in early February, it’s a couple of weeks off. And that will enormously expand our reach.
Joe Biden: (09:10)
Last week, I also signed a declaration to immediately begin reimbursing states 100% for the uses of their National Guard to help with COVID relief effort. Both getting the sites set up and even using some other personnel to administer some of the vaccines. And I think it’s something Democrats, Republicans, governors alike, have called for.
Joe Biden: (09:37)
We’re also expanding testing, which will help schools and businesses reopened safely and protect the most vulnerable. And we formalized the Health Equity task force to ensure that equity is at the core of everything we do in urban and rural communities alike. To make sure those people most significantly damaged have access. Access. We have to change, we have to move in a direction for those communities that are hard to get to.
Joe Biden: (10:06)
But the brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated. Months. In the next few months, masks, not vaccines are the best defense against COVID-19. Experts say that wearing masks from now just until April would save 50,000 lives who otherwise will pass away if we don’t wear these masks. That’s why I’m asking the American people to mask up for the first 100 days.
Joe Biden: (10:36)
I’ve issued executive orders requiring masks on federal property and interstate travel, trains and planes and buses. One Congressman pointed out… He used a very colorful term to say, “Wearing in a mask, I told him to kiss my ear. I’m not going to wear a mask.” Well, guess what? Not very American. The fact is you want to be patriotic you’re going to protect people.
Joe Biden: (11:02)
And new COVID-19 variants… We are instituting new measures to deal with these individuals flying in the United States from other countries. If you can hold a second, you’ve all heard about the British strain, the Brazilian strain, the South African strain, and they seem to be more transmittable more easily. So in addition to wearing masks, everyone flying to the United States from another country, we need to test before they get on a plane and self quarantine when they arrive in America.
Joe Biden: (11:41)
I’m going to close with this, We now have a national strategy to beat COVID-19. It’s comprehensive. It’s based on science, not politics. It’s based on truth, not denial. And, it is detailed. It’s going to require Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan to provide funding to administer the vaccines, to ramp up testing, to help schools and businesses reopened and deliver immediate economic relief to Americans who badly need it through no fault of their own.
Joe Biden: (12:13)
And our plan will take time. Progress from our plan will take time to measure, as people getting infected today don’t show up in case counts for weeks. And those who perish from the disease die weeks after that exposure. You know, despite our best intentions, we’re going to face setbacks, which I will always explain to you and acknowledge.
Joe Biden: (12:37)
Let me be clear, things are going to continue to get worse before they get better. The death toll experts tell us it’s likely to top 500,000 by the end of next month, this February, and cases will continue to mount. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around.
Joe Biden: (12:59)
But let me be equally clear, we’re going to get through this. We will defeat this pandemic. And, to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point, help is on the way. We can do this if we come together, if we listen to the scientist. And as I said, tomorrow, I say to the press the entire team will be back in the business, my COVID team, of answering all your detailed questions.
Joe Biden: (13:27)
So thank you very much for your patience. Keep the faith. We’re going to get this done, and I’ll always level with you about the state of affairs. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (13:38)
Mr. President, did you promise to punish Putin?
Joe Biden: (13:39)
Speaker 3: (13:39)
Okay guys, lets go.
Speaker 4: (13:39)
Mr. President [crosstalk 00:13:46].
Speaker 2: (13:39)
Speaker 3: (13:39)
Thank you guys, let’s go. [crosstalk 00:13:39] Yep, we’re going to go now. [inaudible 00:13:54] Come on press, let’s go. [crosstalk 00:13:59]