Dec 10, 2020
Mike Pence COVID-19 Vaccine Roundtable Transcript December 10
VP Mike Pence participated in a roundtable event with Gov. Henry McMaster and HHS Secretary Alex Azar to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine on December 10. Read the transcript of the event here.
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Speaker 1: (01:37)
[crosstalk 00: 00:46]. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the South Carolina Governor, Henry McMaster. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Vice President of the United States, Michael R. Pence.
Vice President Pence: (03:11)
Good to see you, man. Good to see you, doctor. Thank you. All right, great. Governor, you’re up.
Governor Henry McMaster: (03:40)
I think I’m up.
Vice President Pence: (03:43)
Governor Henry McMaster: (03:44)
Ladies and gentlemen, we appreciate you being here. So this is an exciting moment for the country, and the great work that has been done by the Trump administration, Trump Pence administration, in combating this virus. And we are thrilled to have the Vice President here again, along with Secretary Azar and our Congressman Jeff Duncan, William Timmons, and Lieutenant Governor is here as well, and others. And we will hear from all. Mr. Vice President, welcome to South Carolina. Welcome to the wonderful upstate. And we’re delighted to have you here. The floor is yours.
Vice President Pence: (04:26)
Well, thank you very much, Governor McMaster. Thank you for not only your hospitality today and the hospitality of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, but also governor, I just want to take a moment on the president’s behalf, on secretary’s behalf, and on behalf of everyone on the White House coronavirus task force to say thank you to you.
Vice President Pence: (04:50)
To you, to your wonderful wife, Peggy, to Lieutenant Governor Vet, and every member of your administration here in the state of South Carolina, for the leadership that you have provided for the people of this state. I’ve worked with every governor in every state and every territory of America, but I can tell the people here in South Carolina, that all along the way, Governor Henry McMaster has put the health of the people of South Carolina first, he’s recognized the practical needs of families and businesses across this state. And I just like to invite everyone to join me in thanking Governor Henry McMaster for all of your efforts throughout the midst of this pandemic.
Vice President Pence: (05:36)
And I am grateful to be here as well with two leaders who have just done yeoman’s work throughout this pandemic as well. They’re both members of the House of Representatives. One of whom I had the privilege of serving with during my years in the Congress and another who simply has been a tremendous champion for the people of South Carolina.
Vice President Pence: (05:57)
It is remarkable to think as we approach what we believe will be the beginning of what will ultimately end the coronavirus pandemic in America with an eminent vaccine, likely to be approved within days. That it’s been our partners in the Congress, governor, as you know, that were there to recognize that we needed to make sure our healthcare workers had the supplies and the resources that they needed, that we scaled testing across the country, that we developed the therapeutics as well as the vaccines.
Vice President Pence: (06:28)
But I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to Congressman Jeff Duncan and Congressman William Timmons for also providing the support for South Carolina’s families, who’ve endured great challenges in this time. The direct payments to families, the direct support for businesses has made it possible for the communities here in South Carolina and the families and businesses here to be able to endure this challenging time in the life of our nation with as little hardship as is possible. So join me in thanking these two great congressmen for their strong leadership throughout this pandemic. William and Jeff, we are really grateful to you.
Vice President Pence: (07:13)
And as I said, it’s, it’s so good for me and Secretary Alex Azar, who you’ll hear from in a moment to be here in South Carolina. It is amazing to think that from the first time that we spoke about the coronavirus pandemic in this country, 10 months have passed. And at the president’s direction, and with your leadership here in South Carolina, we stood up the greatest national mobilization since World War II. 200 million tests have been performed.
Vice President Pence: (07:45)
When I was tapped to lead the White House coronavirus task force, we only had the capacity to perform some 10,000 coronavirus tests across this country, but I’m proud to report as evidence of American innovation and the leadership that I described, we now do nearly 10 million coronavirus tests a day, giving us visibility on those that are susceptible to this pandemic and leaning into ensuring that those who are in harm’s way are protected.
Vice President Pence: (08:16)
We also stood up, as you know governor, working with you, we stood up an effort to make sure that personal protective equipment and supplies were available to our healthcare workers. And I want the people of South Carolina to know that while we gather here today to talk about Operation WARP Speed and what we believe will be the eminent approval of the first coronavirus vaccine for the American people in a matter of days, we recognize that we’re going through a challenging time as we see cases rising in virtually every state in the country.
Vice President Pence: (08:50)
But I want the people of this state to know that America has never been better prepared to combat the coronavirus than we are today. And we’re going to continue to work around the clock to make sure that we have the testing, that our healthcare workers have the supplies, that we’re distributing the therapeutics and the medicines to give relief to those that are struggling with this pandemic. Even while we hasten the day that we make a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine available for the American people.
Vice President Pence: (09:23)
As the secretary will no doubt describe in just a few moments, we believe the FDA is doing their work very much in the public eye. And we anticipate in a matter of days, the approval of the first coronavirus vaccine. It’s amazing to think though, governor, as you know about the speed with which Operation WARP Speed has moved.
Vice President Pence: (09:49)
I was just speaking to one of the leaders here at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, who I think described the pace of the development of this vaccine as mind boggling. And the truth is it is historic. It is nothing short of a medical miracle. The truth is developing and manufacturing a vaccine can take up to 8 to 12 years, and we are literally on track because of extraordinary leadership at every level, because of the support of these members of Congress. And because of American scientific innovation, we’re literally on track to have a safe and effective vaccine available for the American people between eight and 12 months. That is unheard of, but it’s a testament to this President’s impatience as a leader, his willingness to say to everyone we’re going to do things safely, but we’re going to do them differently. It’s important for people to understand that we’ve cut no corners in the development of these vaccines.
Vice President Pence: (10:52)
We’ve have cut red tape and we’ve done things on a dual track for the first time, Mr. Secretary, in the history of vaccine development in this country. Literally at the president’s direction, we literally purchased vaccines from companies before they were approved. So that in the event that they became approved, we would have millions of doses. And we anticipate before the end of this month to actually have doses for more than 20 million Americans, as a result. In fact, as you’ll hear in some detail in a moment, we anticipate because of the structure of Operation WARP Speed, governor, that if there is an approval within the next several days, that we will be working with extraordinary private sector partners like FedEx and UPS and McKesson, that we will be shipping vaccine within 24 hours and working with some great retail partners like CVS and Walgreens. We’ll actually be administering those vaccines within 24 hours of that.
Vice President Pence: (11:55)
And I want to commend your health department, and I want to commend to all the partners here in the health community, across South Carolina, for making that possible. So my message, while I’m going to turn it over to our congressmen before the secretary gives an update on Operation WARP Speed, and we hear from your team. My message to the people of South Carolina is we’re living in a challenging time. See cases rising, but you need to be assured we’ve never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today. And people deserve to know that we are just a few short days away from what I believe will be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic in America. Literally within a few short days, we believe we will obtain the approval to begin to distribute and administer millions of doses of the vaccine.
Vice President Pence: (12:52)
According to the plan here in South Carolina, that your administration has approved, governor, among those that are most vulnerable and those that are serving in our hospitals and clinics across this great state. So my last word of admonition I’ll save to the end, because all of us still have a role to play, to do our part, to protect the health of our family, our community, our neighbors, and our friends, and people of this state and this nation.
Vice President Pence: (13:19)
But for now, we’re here to focus on your plan for distribution. We look forward to hearing more details about the decisions that you’ve made, Governor McMaster, here in South Carolina. And again, I just want to end where I began in this conversation and say, thank you, Governor Henry McMaster, and your entire team here in South Carolina, for the extraordinary work that you’ve done, putting the health of the people of South Carolina first. It has brought us to this day and I believe will hasten the day that we put the coronavirus in the past. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that. With that, let me recognize Congressman William Timmons and then Congressman Jeff Duncan for their remarks. And thank you again for being here, congressman.
Congressman William Timmons: (14:04)
Thank you, Vice President. I can’t thank you enough for your leadership and the president’s leadership. Operation WARP Speed has been a huge success, is going to allow our country to get on the other side of this pandemic, and it is going to be a legacy that we will all be proud of for the Trump administration.
Congressman William Timmons: (14:20)
Governor, I can’t thank you enough for your leadership as well. Not only have you done everything necessary to protect the lives of the citizens of South Carolina, you’ve balanced it by making sure that as many businesses can survive this pandemic as possible. And that balance has not been found in many states. So I appreciate your leadership and Lieutenant Governor’s leadership. And we just all are very fortunate living in South Carolina, and we’re ready to get back to work. So with that, Congressman Duncan, I’ll let you take it from there.
Congressman Duncan: (14:51)
Vice President, thank you for coming back to South Carolina and thank you for all that the Trump administration has done to help the folks in South Carolina and those across the nation, as we took this virus head on. And Operation WARP Speed has been truly a successful approach. It shows what Americans can do when we put our mind to it.
Congressman William Timmons: (15:12)
Congressman Duncan: (15:13)
And I want to take the opportunity to thank all the frontline healthcare workers, not only at Prisma and University of South Carolina School of Medicine, but all over South Carolina. They are working long hours, working hard hours. And I want them to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers daily, because they are truly on the frontline in this battle against COVID-19. So thank you. And Secretary Azar, you’ve done a tremendous job.
Congressman Duncan: (15:43)
As a member of the energy and commerce committee, we have had numerous phone calls and Zoom calls with Secretary Azar to find out how things were going across the nation, as we approach this pandemic and your office has been tremendous in keeping us updated as policy makers in Congress. So I want to say thank you for that again. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, Governor, Lieutenant Governor. Thanks for all that you guys have done for South Carolina as well. Your leadership has ought to be commended. And with that, I will yield back. Thanks.
Vice President Pence: (16:14)
Great. Great job. Alex?
Secretary Alex Azar: (16:19)
Well, thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, for pulling this round table together. And thank you, Dean Jenkins for welcoming us. Thank you, Dr. Rossman, who we’ll look forward to talking to in a bit, for welcoming us to your campus. And thanks of course, to representatives Duncan, Congressman Duncan, I’ve gotten to work with on the energy and commerce committee, a great leader, supportive of everything we’ve done at HHS. Congressman Timmons, another fantastic leader from South Carolina, thanks for being here and joining us. And I just want to, as the vice president did, express a special appreciation to Governor McMaster.
Secretary Alex Azar: (16:53)
I get to be with the vice president every week on the video calls that we do with all of the nation’s governors. And I can tell you the people of South Carolina have in Governor McMaster just one of the great leaders in our country, fully engaged, always contributing, and very much a partner in every element of this response. You and your team in South Carolina have done just a fantastic job. And we really appreciate your partnership, especially working to protect vulnerable South Carolinians, who were in long-term care facilities, while also taking into account their mental health needs and the role that their families play in supporting them. You’ve been balanced in everything that you’ve done. It’s incredibly important that we get that balance right. That we’re protecting people who are high at risk, but thinking also about the holistic vision of caring for patients and families, and you have done that.
Secretary Alex Azar: (17:44)
We’re here in South Carolina because partnerships between the federal government and state governments are vital to getting safe and effective vaccines to every American who wants one. And as the Vice President said, the time is now. The FDA Advisory Committee is meeting as we speak on the Pfizer vaccine in a public hearing.
Secretary Alex Azar: (18:03)
… as we speak on the Pfizer vaccine in a public hearing. And if all remains on track, we could see FDA authorization of the first vaccine in the United States within days. And as the vice president mentioned, product would ship within 24 hours. But here’s the important thing. 20 million Americans could be vaccinated just before the end of this month, in December. A total of 50 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of January. And thanks to President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s leadership and Operation Warp Speed and the historic mobilization that has happened there, we expect to see 100 million vaccinations total by the end of February.
Secretary Alex Azar: (18:57)
The foundation of this, the foundation of this, were the three key partnerships of Operation Warp Speed. And you’ve seen two of them so far. One is the partnership across the federal government between HHS and the Department of Defense and the president and vice-president’s leadership. The second is the partnership with the private sector, the government working with and mobilizing these great biopharmaceutical companies here in the United States. But the one that now is really going to be so critical is that third partnership, the partnership between the federal government and the states on distributing vaccine. I knew from the start that states needed to play a key role in the distribution and allocation of vaccines because we went through exactly this kind of planning for pandemic flu vaccination in the 2000s under President Bush when we implemented our state-based pandemic flu plans. We built strong partnerships with the states as part of that.
Secretary Alex Azar: (19:47)
So what is the role of states, and why is it so important? The distribution of the physical vaccines from the factory to the frontlines will generally be done by the healthcare distributor, McKesson, which works with FedEx and other partners who do the actual shipping. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, Pfizer will ship directly through FedEx, and we will use McKesson to marry their product up with the vaccine administration kits that Operation Warp Speed has procured and assembled. Over 100 million assembled already. States are in charge of telling us where the vaccines should be shipped. They’ve been working on their allocation plans with CDC and OWS for several months now. And they can draw on the recommendations of CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices, the advice of the National Academies of Sciences, and their own best judgment to develop the best allocation plan for their own citizens and situations.
Secretary Alex Azar: (20:41)
States have different circumstances and are in different epidemiological situations. So state leaders are in the best position to take these general national recommendations and translate them into more precise guidance that fits their state and their conditions. In general, states will also be giving us information about providers, to whom we will ship vaccines. Pharmacy partners, hospitals, community health centers, and the like. We’ve paid for the vaccines, we’ve paid for the shipping costs. The administration cost for these will be borne by private sector partners like healthcare payers, private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, as well as our program to cover COVID-19 expenses for the uninsured. We’ve reached agreements with pharmacy chains and independent pharmacy networks so that states can have products shipped directly to them, where those private partners will handle administration. That includes, for instance, an agreement with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations at long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted-living centers, an overwhelming share of which have signed up.
Secretary Alex Azar: (21:40)
Finally, Operation Warp Speed has also been working to expand our arsenal of therapeutics. And I want to remind everyone that all Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 can play a role in this by donating convalescent plasma, a promising treatment for the disease. If you are within three months of recovering from COVID-19, and that includes millions and millions of Americans, you have a chance to donate plasma and you can help save a life. Please contact the American Red Cross, your local blood bank, or visit coronavirus.gov to learn more about how you can volunteer and give the gift of life. With that, I want to hand things over to our great Governor McMaster, who will lead us in a discussion about South Carolina’s distribution plans. Governor McMaster.
Governor Henry McMaster: (22:21)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And again-
Vice President Pence: (22:23)
I’ll jump in very quickly there. With your permission, Governor McMaster, I just wanted to thank Secretary Azar for that great description. But I also wanted to give all the great South Carolinians gathered here a word of appreciation. I hailed from Indiana when I took this job as vice president. And we looked to Indiana to find someone I’d known for many years to lead health and human services after a few short years. And I must tell you, having worked, Governor, shoulder to shoulder with Secretary Alex Azar throughout this pandemic, that America has been so well-served by your leadership, your dedication, the countless hours. And I just want to invite everyone here to join me in thanking Secretary Alex Azar for a job well done.
Vice President Pence: (23:11)
Well, Governor, as the secretary described, and I think it’s important for people of South Carolina to know that while we mobilized research companies early on, while the federal government, with the support of these congressmen, was able to actually fund the manufacture of vaccines. And through the advisory process, the CDC has made recommendations about to whom these vaccines go. We followed all along an approach to this pandemic that is federally supported, but state managed. And so, Governor, you know that while we’ve made recommendations about not how, but to whom the vaccines will be distributed, ultimately that is a decision that fell to your office, to your health officials, and to the people of South Carolina. We simply believe that state leadership, local leadership, local health officials know best about the point of the need. And so we’d welcome an update from you, secretary and I both would, on the recommendations.
Vice President Pence: (24:15)
We’ve reviewed your plan. South Carolina has a great plan for getting vaccines distributed to South Carolinians most in need and that would be most beneficial to supporting the healthcare system across the state. But I’d love to hear some detail from you about decisions that you’ve made and any ways that we can leave from here and continue to be helpful as you implement a distribution plan for those vaccines that we believe will be available very soon. Governor.
Governor Henry McMaster: (24:45)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. And I’d like to echo those words and others. You and Secretary Azar have been on the telephone, have always been 100% available without ceremony and formality. And I think we’ve discussed, you’ve heard before, we’ve had video conferences at least 45 or 50 times. And there’ve also been some that had the president participating as well. But I have never seen and no one that I know has ever seen such massive participation, collaboration, communication, and cooperation among the federal government, the state governments, and everyone involved. And it is quite a tribute to understanding of the needs of the nation, what this administration has put together. So we in South Carolina, on behalf of five million plus proud, happy South Carolinians, we do want to thank you for an extraordinary effort, has been mentioned, to getting the vaccine produced in a record, extraordinary time that no one could have imagined.
Governor Henry McMaster: (25:57)
And not only that, that is an enormous accomplishment. And great thanks to President Trump for his enormous leadership, but also the decision to have the, while the development was going on, to have the production to be going on at the same time. So when we got the vaccine approved, it’d be ready to go instead of having to wait again. A lot of new innovative thinking went into this and we deeply appreciate it. There are a lot of people in South Carolina alive right now because of the leadership that you’ve given us. And I want to thank those that are here. I want to thank Prisma, University of South Carolina, Dean Jenkins, and all involved. And the Congressmen, we appreciate so much the work you did on the CARES Act to get that done, working with the president and vice president. Because it has made an enormous difference.
Governor Henry McMaster: (26:49)
But I also want to thank the people of South Carolina who’ve accepted these limitations and hardships with dignity and grace and cooperation and understanding, and have done so without complaint and certainly without rejection. And it’s always a pleasure to work with the people and for the people of South Carolina. And there’s one hint that this is not something new. One of our great four-star generals once said that there’s more patriotism per square inch in South Carolina than any other place in the world. And I tend to agree with that. And I think that is reflected in the kind of spirit that we have seen in this very trying episode.
Governor Henry McMaster: (27:38)
Mr. Vice President, the details, I will try to be brief, although they are details and I will recite them. Some of you have heard them before, but I think they bear repeating. We have determined that there are many ways to fight this virus, but the best way, the better way, is to have fewer restrictions and more advice. And that is what we have done. We know that we wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands routinely.
Governor Henry McMaster: (28:12)
And now we know that staying outside as much as possible and being in the fresh air instead of being locked up as some people were when they visited the beaches back on Memorial Day. We thought, “Well, everybody will be outside so the numbers will go down because there will be plenty of fresh air.” Well, it turned out they did go outside, but then it’s so hot, they went inside. And they were in the houses and that’s where we believe that that resulted in the spike then. We hope that that will not happen. Now that weather is getting cooler here, we understand the lesson we learned then. So we encourage everyone to stay outside, breathe fresh air as much as you can, keep your car windows open, those sorts of things, as much as possible. And follow the rules and be smart.
Governor Henry McMaster: (28:59)
This is the distribution of this miraculous vaccine is going to be a slow process. And we have urged the people in South Carolina to understand that it will be slow, there will be not enough to go around at the beginning. It will be months before it will all be here, but it is getting started. And in record time. And this is the procedure that we have come up with with great collaboration, communication, and cooperation. And Dr. Traxler will go into some more detail when I’m finished with this. But the first group, or what we call phase one or step one, the people to receive the vaccine will be those in the healthcare setting that are at the highest risk of contracting the virus and who are essential to preventing mortality. And those include such as physicians, physicians assistants, nurses, nurses aides, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, speech pathologists, medical students, and nursing students. It also includes nursing home and long-term care facility residents and staff.
Governor Henry McMaster: (30:16)
But we know that over 40% of our fatalities are coming from the nursing homes, where people, of course, are in weakened conditions or they wouldn’t be there to begin with. So the nursing home and long-term care facility residents and staff, medical personnel in correctional facilities, jails, and detention centers where close contact is, of course, quite necessary. Emergency medical and first responders like EMTs, paramedics, fire, and law enforcement personnel, and home health and hospice workers. That will be the first group. And of the 200,000 to 300,000 doses that we are expecting, which will be the first of two doses that those people will receive, are not going to be enough to cover all of those people. But it is a start. And it will be productive.
Governor Henry McMaster: (31:13)
The next group is called phase one B. We just did one A, this is one B, or the second phase. Will be people who provide services with a higher risk of exposure due to interaction of the public. Examples include other first responders that don’t have as much contact as those who have the hands-on contact with those that they are rescuing. That includes fire and law enforcement personnel, as well as workers in jobs that provide critical services like utilities, water, trash, transportation, and waste removal. Now, that is not firm, but that is the plan now. As we begin the first step and we see how that works out on the ground, then we will know better how to take the second step.
Governor Henry McMaster: (32:02)
But the second step also includes agribusiness and food production workers, people who live or work in congregate settings like group homes and homeless shelters, correctional facilities, jails, and detention centers. People over 75 years old and people with two or more of the following health conditions which weaken the body to fight the virus. These two or more of these are cancer that’s not in remission, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, disability, heart disease, HIV, AIDS, obesity, pregnancy, and sickle cell disease. That is the second group. Again, that’s not firm, but that is the plan.
Governor Henry McMaster: (32:51)
The third group of all four is pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, grocery store, food service, and food delivery workers, service industry workers, postal workers, public transit workers, K-12 school teachers and school staff, childcare workers and staff. I’m going slow so we can follow. School bus drivers, instructors and staff at higher education institutions including four year colleges, technical colleges, of which, by the way, we have the finest in the nation, we understand and believe. And research universities, of which we have three magnificent ones and they’re here today. Persons aged 65 or older, and also people with one of the following health risk of conditions, as opposed to two that I recited a moment ago. And those include cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, disability, heart disease, HIV, AIDS, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, and asthma, cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, immunocompromised liver disease, pulmonary fibrosis. The final phase is all the rest of us. And so, that is our plan to date. And again, I want to thank the administration for the extraordinary work that you have done in working with the people of South Carolina to see that we tackle this virus.
Vice President Pence: (34:40)
Governor, I just, I want to commend you. Thank you for giving us a detailed walkthrough. And I look forward to hearing from more members of your team about the considerations that went into that. But Mr. Secretary, I think we’ve consulted with South Carolina all along the way, giving you our very best advice.
Governor Henry McMaster: (34:57)
We appreciate it.
Vice President Pence: (34:58)
But I want to commend you for that. I also want to commend you for Operation Warp Speed has moved at a historic pace. And as the secretary said, we expect to be able to vaccinate, pending approval this week, some 20 million Americans before the end of December, 50 million Americans before the end of January, and 100 million Americans. But I want to echo your call for patience as we move forward. Every American will be anxious to consider this vaccine for themselves. We want people to have confidence in it. But even as we’ve moved at a record pace, I appreciate the fact that you have framed that we will continue to move at that pace. But for the average South Carolinian, this is a good time to recognize the focus and the priorities on those that are most at risk and those that are caring for those at risk and-
Vice President Pence: (36:02)
Those that are caring for those at risk. We’ll continue to scale that. And Mr. Secretary, the best estimate for the Governor about when any American would have access to have a coronavirus vaccine, if they chose to have, would be, we say the spring. Others have said maybe by June, but you might favor them with a when do we get to that time when any South Carolinian that would want a vaccine would be able to have it, in your best estimate?
Secretary Alex Azar: (36:36)
I would say first, listening to Governor, McMaster’s very thoughtful going through that distribution plan should reassure all South Carolinians and all Americans just how comprehensive this distribution planning has been with our nation’s governors, if you need any better example, it’s right there. Secondly, we believe that we will have enough vaccine for any American who wishes to be vaccinated in the second quarter of next year, but that’s not a moment in time. Literally, every week going right now, we get more and more vaccine from whether it’s Pfizer or Moderna and we hope eventually adding in companies like AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Novavax, Sanofi as part of our portfolio producing five, 10, possibly even 20 million doses a week progressively as we move forward.
Secretary Alex Azar: (37:33)
What I’ve said is there could be, Mr. Vice President, starting in the month of February, depending on a Governor’s prioritization, more general access to vaccine, in late February into March, and certainly in April, “general” vaccination programs. Aa the Governor set it up, programs that really will look more like your flu vaccination progress. So, it’s not just what you’re used to, the type of mechanisms for distributing like the flu vaccine. We, and he had tried to set this up to just be as an easy and experience for you as possible, especially after we get through some of these initial tranches of the most high priority, vulnerable and healthcare-worker vaccinations.
Vice President Pence: (38:09)
Right. Thank you. Very thoughtful. I knew the Secretary would have the very best answer on that. The second quarter, and maybe April and May, where the average South Carolinian could enter the process and choose to have a coronavirus vaccine. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Governor Henry McMaster: (38:28)
I do have to say that all South Carolinians are above average. Also, before I ask-
Vice President Pence: (38:37)
And the most patriotic per square mile, right?
Governor Henry McMaster: (38:39)
Per square inch.
Vice President Pence: (38:40)
Per square inch. That I wouldn’t doubt either.
Governor Henry McMaster: (38:44)
We’re here in the presence of the University of South Carolina and Prisma Health. We want to mention also, as I alluded to earlier, when the virus first came along, in terms of understanding what to do and willingness to pitch in, and into going unknown territory, we did not require the hospitals to try to limit elective surgeries, although most surgeries are not procedures that really they’re not elective, but there are some that are more urgent than others. We didn’t require it, but we asked them if they could do it. Every one of them did.
Vice President Pence: (39:21)
Governor Henry McMaster: (39:21)
We were in close contact, and when the pressure was off, of course, they went right back up. But that’s just an example of the understanding and willingness to cooperate in a major cause that exists among the people-
Vice President Pence: (39:34)
That’s a great example.
Governor Henry McMaster: (39:35)
… in our state.
Vice President Pence: (39:36)
Governor Henry McMaster: (39:37)
Lieutenant Governor, Pamela Everett, the floor is yours now.
Pamela Everett: (39:40)
Thank you Governor. It’s an honor to be here today with Vice President Mike Pence, Governor Henry McMaster, Secretary Alex Azar, Congressman Timmons and Congressman Jeff Duncan and our COVID response team here in the state. 2020 has been one of the most challenging and difficult years in our country and in our state. I want to thank Governor McMaster for his stellar leadership. It has been honored to work with him. I also want to thank resident Trump, creation of Operation Warp Speed, which has been so wonderfully guided by our great Vice President. Our administration here in South Carolina has taken a measured and careful targeted approach and tended to protect our people, while doing the minimum amount of damage to our economy. Now, new hope is on the horizon, thanks to the unprecedented efforts of our federal and state partnership to deliver a safe and effective vaccine.
Pamela Everett: (40:37)
Thanks to the efforts of Operation Warp Speed and the countless hours of work by Vice President Pence and Secretary Azar’s team, we will have vaccine doses in the state of South Carolina this month, and we are equipped and ready to distribute it. This is a truly remarkable and unprecedented effort that will move our country into to the final stage of what will ultimately be the end of this terrible disease. Of course, I want to thank our always-supportive and effective members of Congress. Team South Carolina is in full gear and it has proven effective. Two stars of that team are here today. Congressman Jeff Duncan and Congressman William Timmons.
Pamela Everett: (41:22)
Thank you for your leadership. You provided federal assistance to combat and mitigate the spread of this virus to our state, while also providing the much-needed resources for citizens struggling during this unprecedented time. We recently completed the 2020 census in South Carolina, an effort that I was privileged to oversee. An important part of the outreach method and models used for the census completion will be similar to our distribution plan, to educate and encourage the citizens to take the vaccine.
Pamela Everett: (41:58)
We must recommit ourselves to protecting our population in much of the same way we conducted the census, by performing outreach to vulnerable citizens, including senior adults, residents in convalescent facilities, rural communities, or minority communities, people with chronic diseases and weakened immune systems. We will use our trusted community partners, such as our faith community and our local leaders in making sure that people are aware of the testing opportunities and the risks associated with not taking the vaccine and its impacts on the general public. Individuals who take the vaccine could be protecting others, particularly those at risk, the highest risk of having COVID 19.
Pamela Everett: (42:50)
Our state continues to offer great resources that provide the public with details and updated information, such as our Accelerate SC platform, a website created by Governor McMaster to have a landing pad, a one-stop landing pad for everybody to get the most critical information that they need. As we begin the process of distributing the vaccine here in South Carolina, we need to make sure we continue to protect ourselves. The holidays are coming and we must remain vigilant by making sure that we selflessly protect others in our state and our communities. We know what works. Stay six feet apart, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, get the flu vaccine, and when you have no other options, make sure you have a mask in close quarters.
Pamela Everett: (43:43)
This holiday season, we’re asking everyone to show your gratitude for one another, by taking extra precautions, to protect your loved ones. As we each celebrate Christmas in our own way, let’s not forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the grace he provides us in difficult times. I would like to personally wish everyone is safe and healthy holiday season. I would also like to do introduce Dr. Brannon Traxler, who serves as the Interim Director for the Public Health, for the Department of Health and Environmental Control. In this capacity she provided strategic direction to our public health, leading more than 1900 Public Health employees to ensure delivery of appropriate, timely and quality services at DHEC, for 94 Public Health service sites located in every county. You’ve done a great job, Dr. Traxler. Thank you for your service and commitment. I know this has been a very trying time.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (44:52)
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor. I am pleased and honored to be here today, and I want to welcome you, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Azar, to our wonderful state of South Carolina. Also, to be here and to be joined by Congressman Timmons and Duncan, Governor McMaster and Lieutenant Governor Everett and our partners at Prisma. It is quite the honor. Our ability to begin distribution of a safe and effective vaccine really does represent a critical turning point in our historic battle to stop the spread of this virus. Together, with these federal state and local partners, the Department of Health and Environmental Control is committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to receive a vaccine in South Carolina will eventually be vaccinated.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (45:41)
South Carolina is prepared for this next chapter. Our intensive planning for the arrival of the vaccines, in coordination with our federal partners and our local ones, through our South Carolina COVID-19 task force has been focused on supporting an ethical and equitable distribution and allocation of the vaccines across our communities. However, as this vaccine first becomes available, the number of doses, as Governor McMaster has noted, will be limited in South Carolina, like it is in all States. We ask everyone to be patient, wait your turn and listen to the public health officials.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (46:21)
Our ultimate goal is to save lives, but with these limited initial supplies, we will need to do this in the phased approach that Governor McMaster has described. This means prioritizing our vaccination efforts to ensure the most vulnerable among us and those who keep us alive are vaccinated first. Similar to my previous role, when training as a surgeon here in Greenville, our state must now take the difficult action of triage. We must triage our resources and attend to those in most urgent need of our support. First, our South Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from many different groups of people in our communities has met weekly for months and continues to meet weekly to draft recommendations, as Governor McMaster laid out, for a phase allocation.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (47:12)
They’ve reviewed the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices, Phase One A guidance and provided their recommendations, which align with this national strategy. South Carolina will be vaccinating those in Phase One A, as recommended by the State’s Advisory Committee, with that overarching goal of preventing death. This includes attending to our frontline healthcare workers first. Those are the workers in the hospitals who are the most critical for saving lives and most at risk for exposure to COVID-19. As Governor McMaster said, these are some of our nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, laboratory, and radiology technicians, and many other medical professionals who are treating COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (47:57)
He has laid out very well some of the other groups that are in Phase One A, so I’m not going to read them again, but from the front lines to the front of the line, our frontline medical personnel have really fought heroically throughout this event response, to protect the health and safety of every one of us. They did this while knowing that they were at high risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves. This is our way of protecting these frontline healthcare workers first, so that they can continue to protect all of us. We must also take the swift action to protect those among our most vulnerable. That includes ensuring the patients and staff in our long-term care facilities are among the first to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (48:40)
We have opted into the Pharmacy Partnership established by the federal leadership of the Operation Work Speed and those here today, which we want to thank them for. Under this partnership, South Carolina has allocated vaccine to our long-term care facilities, which will be administered by CVS and Walgreens. By utilizing this partnership for vaccination in our nursing homes and assisted-livings and other similar facilities, DHEC can focus its attention on the logistics of providing vaccine to those other groups that are in Phase One A. This is being performed in close partnership with local providers, such as Prisma Health, who is here with us today, together with South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division, its National Guard, it’s Hospital Association and Law Enforcement Division.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (49:27)
Along with these local partners, DHEC is operationalizing the state’s vaccine plan, which as we appreciate the CDC and HHS reviewing and providing feedback on. DHEC is confident that enough vaccines will be available for the general public very easily within the next year. We appreciate Secretary Azar’s update on where that stands, until that time though, we all have to be patient and continue to wait our turn. Until the vaccines become readily available we’re calling on all South Carolinians to step up by stepping back, to allow the public health care professionals to do their jobs and provide the vaccine quickly to those who are at highest risk of spreading the virus, contracting the virus or at highest risk of death.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (50:15)
We want all South Carolinians to understand that it will take some time to vaccinate a large enough portion of the population to allow us to change some of our current safety practices. This means we all must continue to act by taking those small steps that make big differences, wearing your mask, getting tested and staying home when you’re sick, avoiding large group gatherings and practicing social distancing. We just need everyone to hang in there a little bit longer. We acknowledge, as been noted, that some people are skeptical of not just this vaccine, but of all vaccines.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (50:49)
We’re fully aware of the vaccine hesitancy and we absolutely understand why some people may feel this way, but I want people to know that these COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. We got here quickly because we had such a head start on developing them and because of the excellent leadership of Operation Warp Speed. Picking up we’re fellow scientists and medical professionals began with previous outbreaks, such as related coronaviruses, Like the SARS outbreak, has led our scientists now to be able to move forward very quickly at such impressive speeds, to develop the proven and safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (51:29)
We know that no vaccine will be authorized for use without being subjected to the rigorous testing and independent review that’s required by both the FDA and CDC. With that, I want to thank you again, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Azar, and our other distinguished guests for being here today. We look forward to continuing our work with our federal partners, the Governor, and our other state partners, the rest of the members of the COVID-19 task force in the state and our very important local partners exemplified here today by, Prisma to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of this vaccine and put an end to COVID-19.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (52:07)
Together, We are one huge step closer to ending this pandemic. I would now like to ask Dr. Eric Ossmann, from Prisma Health of state to speak on the local perspective. Dr. Ossmann is Prisma’s Chief of Preparedness and a practicing emergency medicine physician. Dr. Ossmann.
Dr. Eric Ossmann: (52:23)
Very good. Thank you, Dr. Traxler and I am incredibly honored and awed to be sitting here today, 10 months after the beginning of the onset of this virus. This has been an incredible journey, and I am simply a humble representative of a very large organization at Prisma Health and the University of South Carolina. We have thousands of team members now working tirelessly across the upstate in the Midlands, taking care of COVID-19 patients. In fact, we have over 270 in the hospital right now. So, this is a remarkable achievement and the fact that this has been done in 10 months is even more incredible. I just want to start by saying, I think the key to our success in all of this has been the strong partnerships and the leadership we’ve had at the state level and at the federal level.
Dr. Eric Ossmann: (53:16)
From the very get-go, when we reached out to the Governor, when we reached out to Dr. Traxler and the DHEC staff, when we reached out at the federal level, we found willing partners. That is what has allowed us to get where we are today. The vaccine, when it comes, we are ready. We have had teams in place since early summer across this large organization, working to figure out how the last mile of administration is going to work. We have had groups from pharmacy, from clinical side, from the administrative side, so when the vaccine arrives, we’ll be able to receive it. We’ll be ready to store it. We’ll be able to administer it. I don’t think we’re going to store a lot of it, because our teams are very ramped up and-
Dr. Eric Ossmann: (54:03)
We’re going to store a lot of it because our teams are very ramped up. And as soon as we get it, we’re going to be putting it in people’s arms. So, as much vaccine as we can have in South Carolina, we will administer. Our teams have done some really novel things, using drive-through lines for testing, using tele-health. And we’re going to leverage all of those capabilities for the vaccine administration. So, I would say to Dr. Traxler, thank you for your leadership. It’s been a pleasure to work with DHEC. And importantly, I really do want to recognize Vice President Pence, Secretary Azar, Representative Duncan, Representative Timmons, Governor McMaster, and Lieutenant Governor, because without all of you here today, this would not have been a 10 month process. And lives will be saved and people will be comforted. So, I would like to thank you again and happy to take any questions.
Speaker 2: (55:03)
Great job, Doctor. Great job.
Vice President Pence: (55:09)
Well, I think we give a round of applause to the Lieutenant Governor and these great team members here in South Carolina. That was very inspiring. Thank you, [inaudible 00:55:19]. I want to go … Dr. Ossman, thank you. And thank you for so modestly representing so many extraordinary men and women in the healthcare community here in South Carolina. I hope if they are not looking on or don’t see a clip of this, I hope they know that there’s never been a day gone by that we haven’t thought about those suffering with the Coronavirus and we haven’t thought about all the incredible men and women caring for them. And so, I want to express our appreciation.
Vice President Pence: (55:51)
I thought I might just ask Dr. Ossman to expand for a moment. I appreciated you amplifying a point, I haven’t heard it put quite that way. You said we won’t be storing much of this vaccine. You said, when we get it, we’re going to be putting it in people’s arms. Can you talk about that timeframe? And then I’m going to turn over to Dr. Traxler for another follow-up on some of her thoughtful comments. But how quickly in the state’s distribution plan, do you at Prisma anticipate literally administering? Assuming that we get an approval in the next several days and ship it within 24 hours.
Dr. Eric Ossmann: (56:33)
Right. So, we have taken the DHEC plan and the federal plan and we have operationalized that at the Prisma level. Identifying very specifically who are our at risk frontline workers and the order of vaccination that we’re going to perform. We’re going to be using two of our largest facilities initially, here in Greenville and then also in Richland, as the hubs for vaccination. So, as soon as we have the vaccination within the system, we’re going to start notifying these already preregistered employees that it is available and they will self schedule into a slot. And we’re going to have teams from our employee health, our business health, and all across the organization prepared to give those immunizations. So, as I said, we are overjoyed that this day has come and are prepared to execute.
Vice President Pence: (57:30)
And so, Dr. Ossman, you’re saying under the Governor’s 1A plan, that you’ve already pre-identified the healthcare workers who fall in the categories. I think, Governor, you said it was healthcare workers that are at the highest risk, healthcare workers that are most essential in dealing with those struggling with the pandemic. So, those people already know they’re on the list and will be in line to get the first round of vaccine?
Dr. Eric Ossmann: (58:03)
Yes, sir. We’ve already pre-identified those individuals.
Vice President Pence: (58:06)
I think, Governor, that’s really commendable on Prisma’s part, on your part, but I want to encourage people with Mr. Secretary that they’re very similar to the plan that virtually every state and territory of the country has. And so, the speed that we’re talking about here, shipping within 24 hours, literally going into people’s arms within 24 hours, is all in the works. And I liked the way you put it. And I thought it’d be good to have you amplify that, and I appreciate it. And thanks for your kind words and your great work, Dr. Ossman.
Dr. Eric Ossmann: (58:40)
Thank you, sir.
Vice President Pence: (58:42)
Dr. Traxler, I really appreciate your work and your thoughtful comments. You described that the state of Carolina was going to put the priority on those most vulnerable and those who are there for people struggling. That’s consistent with the broad outlines that the CDC approved. But you also described this as a critical turning point. We all have to have patience. While it may be days before this is approved, it will be months before every American that would like a coronavirus vaccine could have one. But I thought I might just let you expand a little bit more, Dr. Traxler, on the prioritization, particularly with regard to those in long-term care and nursing homes and the staff and the residents there, what affirmed the priority there and how significant … you might … just a thought on critical turning point. We all feel that way. As I said, in my remarks, we feel like this is the beginning of the end. But I was struck by you talking, this is really a turning point. I thought it might give you a chance to describe that from your great healthcare background.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (01:00:07)
Certainly. And thank you, Mr. Vice President. So, I do. I agree that hope is present. This really a pivotal change because we are seeing this vaccine, not just as a hypothetical in the future, but it is a reality now, thanks to the strong leadership of your administration and Operation Warp Speed. And so, we do see these two groups as really being the initial ones that we want to receive the vaccine, those frontline healthcare workers that are saving lives. And then those that are vulnerable in the nursing homes and assisted livings. As the Governor had noted earlier, of roughly 40%, it varies from moment to moment, but of our fatalities from COVID-19 have been in our long-term care facilities. And so, we want to protect those individuals, both the residents and the staff who continue to go to work and serve and take care of those people.
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (01:01:07)
And so, we have allocated roughly half of this first numbers of doses. We’re getting … we’re anticipating between 200 and 300,000, already by the end of the calendar year, from Pfizer and Moderna. And so, roughly half of that will be going to the partnership with the pharmacies, for CVS and Walgreens to be immediately right away, as you guys have so wonderfully operationalized, into these facilities to start vaccinating. And then the other half will be going to these frontline healthcare workers when … which will, as we’ve heard so nicely from Dr. Ossman, are ready to go and ready to put it in people’s arms. And, so that’s where we’re really seeing this making such an impact so quickly already, even by the end of 2020.
Vice President Pence: (01:01:58)
And are you confident, Doctor Traxler … I mean, we’ve got great partners, Secretary, don’t we with CVS and Walgreens. They will actually be going into the nursing homes. They’ll actually be administering the vaccines, both to seniors who are residents as well as staff. And you’re comfortable with the priorities that the governor and your administration have outlined that that will move out, will move out efficiently with seniors with that initial round?
Dr. Brannon Traxler: (01:02:30)
Absolutely, sir. This pharmacy partnership that you all established, is allowing us then to put our operationalization into the frontline healthcare workers, because we have full confidence in CVS and Walgreens and their abilities to vaccinate in these facilities.
Vice President Pence: (01:02:47)
Great. Well, that’s a great affirmation, Dr. Traxler. Thank you so much. And we … one of the heartbreaking things we realized early on is that seniors, particularly those with serious underlying conditions, are the most vulnerable to heartbreaking outcomes with the coronavirus. And this … Governor, as you said, some 40% of our fatalities in this pandemic have been in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. So, I want to thank you Governor and thank your team for putting a priority on our seniors and just as importantly, on the staff that are coming and going from the community back into the facilities to keep our seniors safe. We really believe it’ll make an immediate impact on saving lives by really focusing vaccines on the point of the need.
Vice President Pence: (01:03:39)
I’m going to give it back to the Governor before I make any final comments, but I’m very partial to number twos so I didn’t want to not take a moment to say to Lieutenant governor Yvette, thank you for all your great work in this. You’ve been a terrific partner as well. Thank you for your eloquent comments today, but more importantly, I’m very aware, we all are, of the way you’ve worked. You’ve worked hand in glove with the Governor throughout this entire process. And I want to thank you personally for your dedication.
Speaker 3: (01:04:11)
Thank you Vice President.
Vice President Pence: (01:04:12)
Governor, any parting thoughts for the people of South Carolina or for us members of the task force or these Congressmen?
Governor Henry McMaster: (01:04:19)
Only these, I want to say again, that we all appreciate the great determination and effectiveness and foresight and innovation of President Trump and you, Secretary Azar and others who have, as Dr. Ossman So well explained and Dr. Traxler, to make this moment possible. I don’t know if any of us have ever seen anything go this quickly and this smoothly so far and I’m confident with the plans and the coordination and collaboration and cooperation that exists among all of us, it will continue to be a historic event.
Governor Henry McMaster: (01:05:01)
And on behalf, again, of over 5 million proud and happy South Carolinians, some born here, and the rest who got here as quick as they could, we thank you very much for your work.
Vice President Pence: (01:05:14)
Well, thank you, Governor McMaster. Thanks for your great leadership, members of your team who are here, these two great Congressmen. I know I speak on behalf of the Secretary Azar, our entire team and our President when I express appreciation and our ongoing commitment to partner with you until the day we put the coronavirus in the past. We’ve been through a very challenging year in the life of this nation. And I’m truly grateful, Governor, for your leadership, for the tireless efforts of your team. I’m grateful to the healthcare workers on the front lines. As a Governor Dunkin so eloquently said, we just appreciate the heroism that’s been demonstrated quietly each and every day in the hallways of our hospitals and clinics across the country.
Vice President Pence: (01:06:04)
But we’re also just very grateful to the people of South Carolina for your cooperation over the course of the last 10 months. And with Operation Warp Speed in full effect, and with us just perhaps a few short days away from having the first safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, I’m proud to report to the people of South Carolina that hope is on the way. But we want to encourage each and every one of you to continue to do your part. While we will, we anticipate, have some 20 million doses to administer to the most vulnerable and to our healthcare workers all across this country, in the days ahead with rising cases, rising hospitalizations, we just simply want to encourage everyone in this great state and all across the country to just continue to do your part. We all know what to do to slow the spread, to flatten the curve, and to save lives. And we just encourage you to do that in every way possible. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, as the governor said, stay outside as much as you can, keep those windows down, and wear a mask whenever you can’t social distance or whenever it’s otherwise recommended or indicated.
Vice President Pence: (01:07:19)
And I’m more confident than ever that we’re going to get through this. We’re going to get through this because of the extraordinary innovation of our research companies and scientists in this country, the extraordinary work of our healthcare workers, the dedication of people at every level across the federal government and here in your administration across the state government. With the cooperation of American people and with God’s help in this season of hope, I know that we’ll get through this. We’ll heal our land and we’ll get through this together. So, thank you all very much. Governor, thank you very much. An honor to be with you all.