Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts and an Exchange With Reporters

May 12, 2021

The President. Good afternoon again. Tomorrow we'll cross 250 million vaccine shots administered since I took office. I think it's a pretty consequential achievement for the Nation.

I promised I'd keep you up to date every 50 million shots. Today I have an important update. Last week, I launched a new phase of our vaccination program. At that time, I set two new goals for our country. The first was getting 70 percent of adults their first shot by July the 4th. The second was having 160 million Americans of all ages fully vaccinated by that same date.

I'm pleased to report we've made strong progress on the adult vaccination efforts in just the past few days by making it easier than ever to get vaccinated. You can visit vaccine.gov or text your ZIP Code to 438829 to find a vaccination site near you. And we're also—opened up thousands of federal pharmacy sites to vaccinations without an appointment so people can just walk up and get the shot.

Now, more employers than ever are giving people time off as well to get their shots. More grocery and retail stores and sports teams are providing discounts and promotions to encourage customers and fans to get vaccinated.

I was—talked to a bunch of Governors yesterday. One of—the Governor of Maine—points out that if you're a hunter or a fisherman in Maine, and you want to get a license, no problem, you don't have to pay for it if you get your vaccination shot at the same time you get your license. The whole point is: There's a lot more convenient places for people to get their vaccine shot.

From May 24 to July 4, Uber and Lyft—and I think it's incredibly generous of them—are going to offer everyone in America free rides to and from vaccination sites. So go online, find out where the vaccination site is, call Uber or Lyft, they will take you there, wait for you, and take you back.

As a result, even though more than half of the adults in the country have already gotten their first shot, we have fewer people who need to be vaccinated than ever before, and we're actually—actually—seeing a slight increase in the pace of vaccinations across the past week. And we're now on track to hit 60 percent of adults with at least one shot by next week.

We still have a lot of work to do to get the adult vaccination rate up to 70 percent, but I believe we're going to get there. So today I want to talk about an exciting new development. When I spoke last week, I said that we were hoping to soon add a new element to our vaccination program: vaccinations for adolescents ages 12 and older.

And then, on Monday, after a rigorous, thorough review, the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, authorized Pfizer vaccine for use in that age category: 12 and up. Today an independent advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the CDC—voted to recommend its use. Now pending the CDC's final approval later today, we're going to have, for the first time, a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents over the 12 years of age. And this is one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic.

I sincerely think the scientists, researchers, and clinical trial participants deserve our thanks; they've all made this possible. Because of them, nearly 17 million more Americans are eligible to get vaccinated and now—now.

I encourage each of them and their parents to get their vaccination shots right away. And here's why: We know that kids at this age, 12 and above, are at risk from COVID-19. About 3 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in kids under 17 years of age. And teenagers can spread it to their friends, to their siblings, to their parents, and to their grandparents. Now that vaccine is authorized for ages 12 and up, and I encourage their parents to make sure they get the shot.

As I promised last week, we're ready. This new population is going to find the vaccine rollout fast and efficient. As of tomorrow, more than 15,000 pharmacies across this country will be ready to vaccinate this age group. Most of these pharmacies are close to a family—as their family home as the kid's school is to their family home.

We're also going to be getting vaccines to pharmacy—for—to pediatricians and family doctors so parents and children can talk to their doctors who they trust about getting the vaccination. And they'll be able to do it at that office. We're also partnering with school-based clinics and community health centers. Of course, we remain focused on equity in our vaccine program. The vaccine is free for everyone—free.

Additionally, if teens are on the move this summer, they can get their first shot in one place and the second shot elsewhere. At the same time, we're also launching an important public education campaign. First and foremost, we're providing families with trusted medical information they need to make informed decisions about the vaccination and the vaccine.

Our medical and scientific experts at CDC and the National Institutes of Health will be out there in the public every day to answer questions and get the facts out. We will also be partnering with the health care providers, schools, community organizations, States, and Tribes, and cities at the same time.

The bottom line is this: The vaccine for kids between the ages of 12 and 15 are safe, effective, easy, fast, and free. So my hope is that parents will take advantage of the vaccine and get their kids vaccinated.

Now, let's remember that millions of 16- and 17-year-olds have also been safely vaccinated. And as more and more Americans get vaccinated, COVID-19 hospitalizations and death rates continue to fall. Today the New York Times reported the number of COVID hospitalizations in the United States since April of 2020, right after the start of this pandemic, is the lowest.

Safe and effective vaccines are curbing the spread of the virus, and they're saving thousands of lives and allowing millions of Americans to start returning to a closer-to-normal life.

As I said earlier, for everyone 12 years and up, it's never been easier or more convenient to get vaccinated. Visit vaccine.gov to find out where, or text your ZIP Code to 438829. That is 438829. Text your ZIP Code to that number, and you'll find the closest vaccine facilities to you as—that moment. It's easy, it's convenient, and it's free.

So if you haven't gotten vaccinated or still have questions, talk to someone you trust: your physician, your pharmacist, your next-door neighbor who got the shot. Talk to your faith leaders. Look at the folks in your community who have gotten vaccinated and are getting back to living their lives: the grandparents united with their grandkids, friends getting together again.

I've been saying for a long—this for a long time, but I believe it: This is not a Democratic or Republican issue; this is about life and death. It's about getting us closer to normal.

Let me conclude with this: In light of the end of—that we've been talking about—there's a light at the end of the tunnel—well, it's growing brighter and brighter. And we need all of you to bring it home.

Americans ages 12 and up: Get vaccinated. And on July 4, let's celebrate our independence as a nation and our independence of this virus. We can do this.

And as I said a little bit earlier today in another context, you know, I don't believe that the American people—there's any significant portion of American people who refuse to get vaccinated. You keep hearing about how Republicans won't—and this. Look, if it's available, if it's nearby, if it's convenient, people are getting vaccinated. I believe the vast majority of Americans are going to get vaccinated. That's the route we're going now.

So may God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. And if you've been vaccinated, you don't have to wear this outside around people unless there's really large groups. And you don't have to wear it inside if you're with people that you—that have also been vaccinated. So protect yourself. Protect your neighbors.

Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Ransomware Attack on the Colonial Pipeline Network/Gasoline Prices and Supply/Cybersecurity Education and Training/Workforce Development

Q. Mr. President, what do you say to Americans who are worried about the supply of gas and rising prices right now?

The President. We have been in very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline, which is the one area you're talking about, where the—one of the reasons that gasoline prices are going up. And I think you're going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we'll be getting that under control.

Secondly, I have, in the meantime, made it easier for us to have lifted some of the restrictions on the transportation of fuel, as well as access to the United States military providing fuel and with vehicles to get it there—where—places where it's badly needed.

And I'd also point out that I think what this shows is that—I think we have to make a greater investment in education as it relates to being able to train and graduate more people proficient in cybersecurity.

And I've been saying for a long, long time now—I know I probably—you could probably say it for me, but I think that one of the most important things we have to do to reclaim our place as a leading innovator in the world is to have a better educated workforce.

And that goes back to the days—long time ago now, over 5 years ago—when I was Vice President and I surveyed all the Fortune 500 companies. I said, "What do you most need?" And remember what they said: better educated workforce. But they're not spending money to educate the workforce.

And—but it's important that we do this. And the cybersecurity piece is one, I think, you're going to see where we need significantly larger number of experts in the area of cybersecurity working for private companies, as well as private companies being willing to share data as to what—how they're protecting themselves.

I think that's part of the long-term answer not just in terms of energy, but across the board. I know that's not a direct response to your question, but it does impact on it, I think, down the road.

Q. [Inaudible]—sir?

[At this point, several reporters began speaking at once.]

Israel/International Diplomatic Efforts/Rocket Attacks From Gaza

Q. Are you concerned about the violence in the Middle East? And can you talk about what conversations you have had with officials there?

The President. My national security staff and Defense staff has been in constant contact with their counterparts in the Middle East—not just with the Israelis, but also with everyone from the Egyptians, to the Saudis, to the Emiratis, et cetera.

And I had a conversation with Bibi Netanyahu not too long ago. I'll be putting out a statement very shortly on that.

My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.

But I had a conversation for a while with the Prime Minister of Israel. And I think that—my hope is that we'll see this coming to a conclusion sooner than later.

Thank you.

The President's Meeting With Congressional Leadership/Bipartisan Outreach/Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation

Q. What's your take on the end of your meeting, sir? Were you optimistic coming out of it today?

The President. Which one? Which one of the 12 I've had? [Laughter]

Q. Pelosi, Schumer, and the crew.

Q. Infrastructure, sir. And in particular——

The President. You guys are bad. I'm not supposed to be answering all these questions. I'm supposed to leave, but I can't resist your questions.

I came away encouraged. And—but I want to make it clear to you: I'm encouraged not just because of a solid meeting with—with the Republican Leader in the House and with Mitch—or Senator McConnell, who I've known a long, long time and worked with. I've been meeting with bipartisan leaders for a long time now. I've met with gosh knows how many.

I mean, and there's more than one single group. There's a bipartisan organization—you know, groups that're made up of 10 to 20 members. There's been groups that I met with—

For example, I met with—yesterday, with Kyrsten Sinema. I thought that was a—and she purported, and I believe her, to speak for some of the bipartisan—her friends who are both sides of the aisle about how to do deal—how to go forward with infrastructure.

So I'm—generically, I'm encouraged that there is room to have a compromise on a bipartisan bill that's solid and significant and a means by which to pay for it without dropping all of the burden on middle class and working class people.

Look, what's the one thing people are concerned about with the gas? Gasoline prices going up. Exactly right. And it matters if you make $40,000 a year. It matters if you're a two-family person and making 80-, 90,000 dollars, two family—two wage earners. It matters.

And what I don't want to do—and this will be another discussion we didn't get into today—is how to pay for it. And if everything is paid for by a user fee, well, then, you know, the burden falls on working class folks who are having trouble. They're—we're getting them out of the—they're coming around, but it has—this has to be a burden shared across the spectrum.

Anyway, thank you, guys.

Q. On the economy-—

Q. Should Americans be worried about inflation, sir?

NOTE: The President spoke at 4:12 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Janet T. Mills of Maine; House Minority Leader Kevin O. McCarthy; and Sen. Kyrsten L. Sinema. A reporter referred to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/349922

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