Mar 19, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript March 19: Vaccine Updates
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on March 19, 2021 to provide vaccine updates. Read the transcript of his full speech remarks here.
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Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:13)
Okay. Good afternoon. Good morning, everybody. I want to thank everyone who is with me here. We’re honored to have here in New York, somebody who has done a great job, getting vaccines to New York, and we’re here to announce even more good news on that. That’s why we’re here today. That’s Jeff Zients. He’s the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. I want to thank Bryan MacIndo. He’s president and CEO of this great community health center, Ryan Health. Where is? Named after the great William Fitz Ryan, who I knew for awhile. Dr. Rachana Lynch is the medical director at Ryan Health, and we have many others.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:56)
We have Ron Guy. He’s been chairman of the board for over a decade of this great institution. Charles Shorter, who’s the executive director of the Harlem branch of Ryan Health. We have Sam Bartells. He’s the director of the West 97th. Where’s Sam? Thank you, Sam. And we have Jessica Carroll, the chief nursing officer here who administers the vaccines.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:21)
And we have representing our clergy in the area is Dr. Henry Bell and the great pastor of the First AME Church, Bethell Church in Harlem. Okay. So that’s who we have here. And I thank them all for coming. And by the way, we’re here at a community health center. I have always been a strong supporter of community health centers. They are about the best way, one of the best ways to get health care to people who don’t have adequate coverage, who need to go to places, et cetera.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:54)
We are making them, Jeff Zients and the federal government is making community health centers a mainstay of vaccinating people because they’re accessible. They’re throughout our communities, particularly our poor communities and communities of color, and people will be able to get the vaccine very easily and not have to travel a long distance. And hopefully, with all the new vaccines, wait online. So we love community health centers, but I want to just say something about Jeff Zients as well.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:26)
I’ve known him for a long time. When the president appointed him to be the coordinator of getting the vaccines out, America breathed a sigh of relief because he is one of the most competent people around. He’s no nonsense. When President Obama had trouble with the computers, when ACA was started, who did he call in to get it fixed? Then he got it fixed fast, Mr. Jeff Zients. So we’re so glad he’s here.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:55)
So what we want to say today is what we’re here today to describe, we can describe what we’re doing in two words, vaccine supercharge, vaccine supercharge. There are going to be many more vaccines, many more sites, many more workers to administer the vaccines as a result of the legislation we passed and the implementation by President Biden and his coordinator, Jeff Zients. We all know New York’s COVID-19 vaccine supercharge is now underway, and it’s going to make it easier and quicker for many more people to get the vaccine.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (04:39)
It’s a big challenge, but it starts now. And this will make sure that many more people get this in their arms. The great vaccine that we have that was produced by medical science in an amazing way is going to be available to everyone. New York, we’re here to announce that New York will get 1.65 million vaccines a week on average from now till the end of April. That’s a 33% increase from yesterday and 3.5 times the number from January 20th, the day that President Biden took office.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:25)
And sites like this one, there will be over 200 of these sites throughout New York, administering the vaccine that are community health center sites. And the list is on your press release and at a link that we have, where they will be set up. There’s a list of 40, but most of them have different sites. Like here, Ryan has two sites, two in Harlem, one here on the West side, and one on the lower East side. So they’re listed once, but there will be four sites-
Speaker 2: (05:57)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:58)
Five. Excuse me, five sites to do it. This vaccine supercharge led by President Biden, administered by the coordinator’s designs is now underway and there’ll be a huge influx of vaccines. I’m also here to announce, we’re here to announce that there will be 5,000 new employees hired throughout New York to administer the vaccine. That means it’s going to be a lot easier to get them. That means there’ll be less waiting online. That means that people will not be turned away because the vaccine as they were in the past, because the vaccine wasn’t there.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (06:38)
We have always waited… Thank you. We have always waited for the federal government to come in. The state and city governments did their best. But when you have one government from the production of the vaccine, distributed to the sites with personnel available to administer the vaccine, it flows much more smoothly, much more easily, more people get them. Fewer people wait, fewer people are turned down.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (07:09)
And a lot of this was in the bill we just passed, the ARP bill. We proposed, I believe it was, I think, $60 billion for vaccines, for administering the vaccines, for testing, for all of the activities that Coordinator Zients has to be part of. Is it $60?
Jeff Zients: (07:32)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (07:33)
$160 billion, a billion here, a billion there. $160 billion for everything. And it will cost us about $500 million for instance, alone, to just help the community health centers set up and employ those people. But this money will go for everything, for production of vaccines, for distribution of vaccines, for administering the vaccines, as well as testing and other things that are needed. So it’s a great thing. We worked very hard to pass the ARP. And when I became majority leader and Democrats took over the Senate and President Biden became president, we said, if elect us, we’re going to make sure there are many more vaccines available. We are fulfilling that promise. This was not just an empty promise in election time, but people are seeing the results. And that’s why it is so important that people get the message out that the vaccines are going to be there.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (08:33)
One final thing. We urge everyone to take the vaccine. There’s been some misinformation about the vaccine. Let me tell you, my parents are 97 and 92. Praise God, praise God. And they’ve had the vaccine. They had the Pfizer vaccine, two doses. They got no side effects. They’re doing just fine. I urge everyone to take the vaccine because it works.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (09:03)
I urge everyone to take the vaccine because it works. With that, let me call on our grateful coordinator. I’m grateful he came to New York. I think this is his first trip to New York as coordinator, and he came here and we’re very appreciative because of the great he’s done. Jeff, thank you.
Well thank you, leader.
Speaker 3: (09:20)
Thank you. [crosstalk 00:09:20].
So it’s chilly in New York, but that was a very warm welcome. And I want to thank everybody in [Ryan 00:09:29] for such a warm welcome.
Speaker 3: (09:30)
We love you.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (09:32)
Thank you, leader Schumer. And I thank you most importantly, for passing the American Rescue Plan. It is historic legislation across the board. And it’s critical, as you said, to getting this pandemic behind us. Your work to get it through Congress and signed into law is helping to save lives, reopen schools and businesses, and has us all looking forward to the possibility of a 4th of July that feels a bit more normal with small groups able to gather, hopefully, and where we can begin to declare independence from this virus.
President Biden made a very important announcement yesterday. We reached the goal to administer 100 million shots in his hundred days, on day 58. So that’s weeks ahead of plan.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (10:26)
Achieving that goal was a direct result of deliberate aggressive action guided by the president’s comprehensive national strategy as a whole of government, whole of federal government, approach to ending the pandemic. And the president announced it on his first full day in office. And now thanks to the American Rescue Plan and leader Schumer’s leadership, we have the resources to fully implement that strategy. Central to the strategy is getting equal across the US and across the city and state vaccinated as quickly and equitably as possible.
We’re focused on three key areas, more vaccine supply, more vaccinators in the field, in places like Ryan and more places to get people vaccinated. And more supply, since the start of the administration, we’ve accelerated the production timelines for the three vaccines, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. We now have enough vaccine supply for all adult Americans. We’ll have that in place by the end of May. That’s months earlier than the original timeline.
As leader Schumer just announced, we’re now delivering two and a half times the amount of vaccine doses per week compared to eight weeks ago. And we expect supply of doses to rise nearly one third more across the next several weeks by the end of April. The American Rescue Plan supercharged, I like that word, supercharged our efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations, putting needles in arms.We’ve deployed more than 6,000 federal personnel to support vaccinations, 1,500 federal personnel serving as actual vaccinators in the field, 2,000 active duty men and women support vaccinations. And we’ve increased the number of convenient and trusted places for people to get vaccinated. There’s now been over a million shots delivered at federally run community vaccination sites across the country. 60% of those vaccinations of federally run sites had been administered to minority populations, including two sites here in New York City, one in Brooklyn and one in Queens.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (12:44)
Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we will dramatically increase the number of sites we are standing up and supporting. We’re also providing vaccine directly to over 14,000 pharmacies and will increase the 20,000 pharmacies in the coming weeks. And we’re sending vaccines to community health centers like Ryan Health. Community health centers help reach millions of our hardest to reach and most at-risk people. And they’re critical to our efforts to ensure that not only are we doing vaccinations in a fast, efficient way, but in a fair and equitable way. In New York, we’ve already onboarded 18 health centers into the federal vaccine program where the federal government is sending a vaccines directly to the community health centers. They are administering doses at 81 sites across the great state of New York. And an additional 35 New York health centers will come online over the next month. Again, turbocharged, supercharged by the American Rescue Plan.
Thanks the American Rescue Plan, we now have $7.6 billion to fuel a major expansive capacity at community health centers to safely and equitably vaccinate underserved populations and expand COVID-19 testing and treatment. We all know how urgent the need is. That’s why we’re moving very quickly to get the money out the door.
Because of all of these actions, more vaccine supply, more vaccinators in the fields and workplaces to get vaccinated, we are making real progress. As of today, two out of three Americans over the age of 65 have now received at least one shot. And that’s really important because over 80% of all COVID deaths have been people over 65 years of age.
The president announced last week and his prime time address that no later than May 1st, all adults in the country will be eligible for vaccination. That’s great news for New Yorkers.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (14:45)
And it’s great for people across the country. So we’ve made a lot of progress. I don’t want to in any way understate how much more work we have to do. And thanks to leader Schumer and the American Rescue Plan, we now have the resources to do just that. I want to close by repeating a message that the president delivered yesterday when he-
Speaker 4: (15:05)
Chuck Schumer, I love you.
Speaker 3: (15:06)
When he talked about reaching the hundred million shots. He closed by saying, “Look, it’s a time for optimism, but it is not the time for relaxation. We need all Americans to do their part. Wash your hands. Stay socially distanced. Keep masking up and get vaccinated as soon as it is your turn.”
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:31)
Now is not the time for any of us to put down our guards. In the last week, we’ve seen increases in the number of cases across several states. Scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants spread. Getting vaccinated is the best thing you can do to fight against the variants. And remember, while millions of people have been vaccinated, there are many millions more who still need to get vaccinated.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:01)
So if we keep up our guard, stick together, stick with the science, together we’ll all come through this stronger with renewed faith in each other and in the government that fulfills its most important function, protecting the American people. Thank you again, leader Schumer.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:22)
Thank you. Let’s have a round of applause for our brave lawmaker.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:23)
So I would say there are three numbers I want people to remember. 1.65 million, that’s the number of vaccines more than ever for New York each week. 5,000, 5,000 new people hired to administer the vaccines. And 200, more than 200 community health center sites across New York, many in poorer communities and communities of color so everybody will get the vaccine fairly and equitably. 1.65 million, 5,000, 200. All of that is in your information here. Now I want to call on people from the Ryan Center, but Dr. Belin, our great pastor from Harlem has a funeral to go to. So I want to call on him first to say a few words. Thank you, Dr. Belin.
Dr. Henry Belin: (17:14)
Thank you, Leader Schumer and thank you Coordinator [inaudible 00:17:14] and this Ryan Center for hosting us. This vaccine is very, very important to people in our community. When we look at over 500,000 Americans that have dies, many of them are people of color. Personally, even in my own congregation, we’ve lost seven persons in our congregation in autumn due to this virus, many more who have been hospitalized. Persons of color have been wary of taking different vaccines and things that have come out. But I have studied. After talking to many scientists and many doctors, we are convinced that this is the right time that everyone must be vaccinated. The proper thing to get the vaccine in places that people are comfortable, like the Ryan Center, like churches that have-
… people are comfortable, like the Ryan Center, like churches that have been able to offer, community centers in our neighborhoods. When persons are comfortable with people who are administering the vaccine, then they’d be more likely to do so. We’ve got to make sure that we promote this vaccine and get as many people to do it so we can have people get back to normal life. Thank you so much.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (18:22)
Thank you, Reverend. Thank you. Okay. Now, this is the great Ryan Health Center. As it says five sites, and we have a few people from the Ryan Health Center we want to speak. First is our great coordinator, he’s President and CEO, and it’s Brian McIndoe.
Brian McIndoe: (18:41)
Good morning, everybody, and thank you for being here. First of all, I’d like to thank Leader Schumer. We are thrilled that you and Jeff are here with us today. A year ago this week, New York City came to a standstill, and we began one of the darkest periods in our city’s history. A quick observation, a year ago you’d walk up two blocks, you might run into three people and there’d be no cars on the road. Look around us today, where we are a year later, and the city is coming back. Ryan Health during this period remained at ours centers stretching from the lower east side to Harlem, seeing our patients in person and via telehealth, which we have to get up and running within a quick period of time, one week.
Brian McIndoe: (19:27)
In addition to addressing the complex medical needs, for most of the crisis, we have been conducting COVID-19 viral and antibody testing to help our patients and New Yorkers know if they were sick from this deadly virus. A light at the end of the tunnel came to us at the end of December, when we became a vaccination site for the Moderna vaccine. What has really been a game changer for us was about a month ago when the federal program, we became a designated site, one of 25 community health centers nationally originally, which is growing every day. Today there’s over 900 community health centers nationally that are part of the program, and it will grow up to about 1400. It’s significantly increased our capacity of vaccine and gives us a steady, reliable source that we can count on. We schedule our patients. We know we have the vaccines to give out to our patients. Our staff has worked at night, weekends to hold special sessions to reach the most vulnerable population of New York City.
Brian McIndoe: (20:33)
We have gone out to the community, not just here at this site. We’ve gone out to the community to churches, homeless shelters, senior living centers, and to community partners who serve people with serious mental illness, HIV and others who have difficulty navigating the traditional vaccine sites. With the help of the vaccine supply that we have received from the federal government, this week we have reached 12,000 people that we have vaccinated. And our goal is by the end of April, we will double that. Jess, you got the goal? Jess is in charge of it. I am so proud of our staff here at Ryan Health and what they have accomplished. They have shown such dedication and commitment throughout the pandemic and continue working tirelessly to fight and defeat the coronavirus.
Brian McIndoe: (21:22)
Thank you, Jeff, for your steady leadership and direction as the White House COVID coordinator, getting our country through this crisis. And we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Leader Schumer. He has always been here for New York and you have always stood up shoulder-to-shoulder with the community health centers to help us further our mission to serve the most vulnerable and marginalized population. So I have to say congrats to you, Senator Schumer, for getting the American Rescue Plan over the goal line. The relief included community health centers, with $ 7.6 billion designated for community health centers. I really have to stop there and say that number again. $7.6 billion have been designated for community health centers nationally to fight this. Knowing we have the resources, we will continue our life savings work into the future. Thank you so much for being here today.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (22:21)
Thank you. Okay. Why did we fight so hard to get the ARP done, the American Rescue Plan? One of the main reasons is the vaccine. This vaccine is now going to be, as I said, there’ll be more of them that will be administered more quickly to more people, particularly in underserved communities, than we have ever had. And again, want to thank the president and I want to thank Jeff for doing it. Our last week speaker is the medical director of the Ryan Health Center, Dr. Rashanna Lynch.
Dr. Rashanna Lynch: (23:05)
Hi there. Good morning, everyone. So I just want to say thank you to Leader Schumer, the coronavirus coordinator, Mr. [inaudible 00:23:13], for coming here today. And we are so excited that you guys were able to come. We want to thank you guys for everything that you’ve done for Ryan Health and community centers across the country. As our CEO Brian McIndoe has stated, we were really able to ramp up our vaccinations once HRSA was able to get us more vaccine. We’ve been able to commute to vaccinate more community members, more patients. We’ve been able to do great things since we were able to get additional vaccines from HRSA.
Dr. Rashanna Lynch: (23:47)
I want to encourage all New Yorkers, once you become eligible, please get your vaccines. I tell my patients vaccines are the way that we’re going to get our children back into school buildings with their teachers and their friends. Vaccines are going to be the way that we get businesses open and running again. Vaccines are how we’re going to get this great city of New York back to a sense of normalcy. Vaccines are safe. They’re effective. Vaccines are not giving people COVID-19. They’re actually saving lives. So we really need to get the message out there that vaccines are what are going to get us out of this pandemic. At Ryan Health, our patients have really been getting the vaccines. Like Brian said, they’ve really been ramped up since we’ve gotten more vaccines. And we’ve been able to vaccinate patients with the Moderna vaccine. For now, we’re getting the two dose series. We are really excited to share that we’ve recently started vaccinating with the Johnson & Johnson one dose vaccine, so we’re really happy about that. The side effects of the vaccine are very mild. So I just want to get that out there, that you do not get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The side effects are mild. Please get your vaccine. It gave me a great sense of ease and relief when I was able to get vaccinated in December. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your friends. Please New York, we’ve got to get vaccinated, and vaccines are what’s going to save us. Thank you.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (25:36)
Thank you, Dr. Lynch. Well done.
Dr. Rashanna Lynch: (25:36)
Speaker 5: (25:36)
Okay. Now, we’ll do line topics on vaccine. Any questions for the doctor or the director.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (25:36)
Yeah, and it can be any of us on topic.
Speaker 6: (25:40)
With 1.65 million, that’s a much faster pace than what we’ve seen at this point. What is that in term’s of the timeline? What does the timeline look like-
Senator Chuck Schumer: (25:51)
Well, the President’s timeline, because they’re so effective and efficient up and down the line, production, distribution, administering, it’s much quicker than we ever thought. And it’s going to be quicker still.
Speaker 7: (26:05)
Do you think specifically in New York state, because we’ve seen a few other states been able to say all adults are eligible now, do you think that could happen before May 1? Do you think the governor should make that happen before May 1?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (26:15)
Well, look, it’s up to … I mean, this is a federal program. It’s all old federal and it will augment, and in some places supplant the state and local programs, but it augments them and we want to get this done as quickly as possible. I don’t want to make any rash prediction, but everything’s moving way ahead of schedule. Is that fair to say, Jeff?
Yes. I mean today, we’ll talk about the last seven day average across the country, of 2.5 million doses on average per day. That compares to 900,000 the week that we came into office. So, each week it’s gone up, but for the one week with the storm. So, we’re now at two and a half million doses. And the plan, given the American Rescue Plan and the passing-
… and the plan, given the America Rescue Plan and the passage of that you get, with the resources that provide, you want to continue to accelerate. How do you do that? Add more vaccinators and add more places like Ryan Health to get people back.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (27:13)
Remember we were hoping, two months ago when the president took office, people were hoping we could get a million vaccines a day. Now it’s 2.5 million, and the number from New York is much higher and much quicker than we thought a month and a half ago.
Speaker 8: (27:31)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (27:32)
Speaker 8: (27:32)
What’s Capitol Hill doing to help the non-believers or the former Trump supporters to get the vaccine, a vaccination?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (27:39)
Well, our job was to get the money and the resources. As Jeff said, the total package is a $160 billion up and down the line. And a good amount of that money comes to health centers to hire people, to get the vaccines done more quickly. But we’ve gotten the money. We’re keeping oversight over what’s happening, what it’s going very well. They don’t need too much oversight right now.
Let me jump in here. As the doctor said, building medical, building vaccine confidence is really, really important. And you do have money to mount that campaign. But the proponent of it is national, but most, most, most important are community based efforts. All the research shows that people look to their faith leaders, look to their local doctors and nurses, look to their health centers, look to their friends and family. And so therefore it’s really important that we support local efforts to help build vaccine confidence. The America Rescue Plan does provide resources to support those local [crosstalk 00:28:46]
Senator Chuck Schumer: (28:46)
And as we said, over 200 community health center sites will be administering this vaccine and they’re the places that are most accessible and most trusted. That’s why they’re chosen. Okay, any… Yes.
Speaker 9: (28:59)
I wanted to-
Senator Chuck Schumer: (28:59)
You just got to talk a little louder.
Speaker 9: (29:03)
All right. I just wanted to have clarification. That this first 200 sites, 1.65 million, is this in the city or is it the state?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (29:11)
It’s the state.
Speaker 9: (29:12)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (29:13)
Speaker 9: (29:14)
Also, how many vaccines will they be receiving for you?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (29:19)
The 1.65 million is the state. But probably, given the population, close to half will be in the city.
Speaker 10: (29:27)
Senator. Can you give any encouraging words to high schoolers who haven’t seen their friends in over a year?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (29:37)
I couldn’t hear what she said.
Encouraging words to high schoolers who haven’t seen friends in a year.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (29:37)
Yes. Look, there’s light at the end of the tunnel folks. It’s quicker than we thought. Three months ago we said this will be with us till January and now it looks like, there’s nothing certain if there are new strains, that things are going to get much better. As the President said, by July 4th we’ll be having barbecues with our families. He called it cookouts, but we say barbecue in New York. So I would say to high schoolers, hang in there. It’s going to get a lot better, a lot quicker.
I don’t know if you want to say that second point?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (30:15)
What’s that? Oh yes. Well, yeah. This is an additional fact that Angelo is always good at. You can fill Yankee Stadium with the additional number of people each day who will get the shot. Every day it’s a Yankee stadium filled, not 30%, not 20% but filled with fans or vaccinatees. Any other questions?
Now, still on topic. We’re still on topic.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (30:40)
Yeah. We’re not going to do off topic.
We have one, we have one Jet Blue [inaudible 00:30:43].
Senator Chuck Schumer: (30:43)
Oh, Jet Blue. Yeah, okay. So let me talk about Jet Blue if we’re finished with on-topics.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (30:53)
Okay. You don’t need to be here, thanks Jeff. Okay. So Jet Blue is something near and dear to me, I helped them get started in New York as a low cost airline. And yesterday you saw that there were some reports that they were thinking of moving their headquarters and a lot of their personnel to Florida. I called up the head of Jet Blue, the president of Jet Blue, Mr. Hayes, Robin Hayes. I told him, “No way, should you move.” That, “You’re a New York company, New York has nurtured you, New York has been part of you. You must stay in New York.”
Senator Chuck Schumer: (31:30)
We had a good conversation. He heard me. And I will say once again, “Jet Blue, you must stay in New York.” And I am very hopeful that they will do just that. Okay?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (31:45)
Thank you everybody.
Speaker 11: (31:46)
Sir, can you expand on why you want Governor Cuomo to resign?
I’ll get it [crosstalk 00:31:50]
Senator Chuck Schumer: (31:50)
We’ll get you the same statement I’ve given many times. Thank you.
Speaker 11: (31:53)
You don’t want to [inaudible 00:31:54] the statement?
It’s just the same thing.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (31:55)
Okay. Let me just say it again. The bottom line is this, you need safe, you need sure and steady leadership during this COVID crisis. There have been lots of allegations of misconduct, sexual harassment. The Governor has lost the confidence of his governing partners and many New Yorkers. He should step down.
Speaker 11: (32:20)
Did you speak to the Governor at all?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (32:32)
Thank you. Thank you.