Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts in Raleigh, North Carolina
The President. Hello, Raleigh. I'm going to——
Audience member. [Inaudible]—Joe!
Audience member. [Laughter] We love you!
The President. Love you back. Well, look, that old—I—you're—by the way, you're in the midst of the—you're in the presence of a—one hell of an individual I want you all to know about. Not me. [Laughter] He's always there when people need help, and he particularly focuses on people who are left behind: Reverend Barber. Thanks for all you do, Rev.
Ivy, I thank you for that introduction, you know, and for everything you're doing.
You know, I think—I thank you everyone here at the Green Road Community Center for hosting us. Governor Cooper, my good friend. A great Governor. But the most important thing: He's a man of enormous integrity, and—no, he really is. You're doing an incredible job; I'm lucky to have you as a partner, Gov, and as we move along here.
Look, you know, the main thing I want to do is start off with the way you should never start off. Are they—do you have chairs out there? [Laughter] Well, if you have a chair, sit. Don't stand for me. [Laughter] I was getting the—I was getting to feel really guilty, man. [Laughter]
I said that a while ago, as the press will tell you. About a year ago, I said, "Why doesn't everybody sit down?" And somebody in the front said: "I don't have a damn seat. That's why." [Laughter] I want to get in trouble. Thank you. I thought you didn't have any seats there. I was going to really feel guilty.
Folks, look, it's great to be with Mayor Baldwin of Raleigh and Mayor—Mayor Schewel of Durham. And joined by a proud native son of North Carolina: the Administrator of the EPA in Washington, DC, Michael Regan. Where are you, Michael? I'm always worried when I come back to North Carolina and Michael is with me that the Governor is going to take him back. [Laughter] But I need him.
Look, folks, he's doing one heck of a job at EPA. And if you want to talk about health, think about the environment. Think about what's happened—being done—what we're changing at EPA. And the—it makes a big deal.
It's also out there, across the State, encouraging people to get vaccinated as well. I wanted to come to Raleigh to thank everyone in this room for everything you're doing to get your community vaccinated. It matters. It matters. You're saving lives. That's not hyperbole.
Let me remind everybody: We lost 600,000 dead in America in about a year. That's more than every life lost in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam war, Iraq, Iran, across the board—Afghanistan. More lives lost in a year than every major war in the 20th century and the 21st century. And guess what, folks? There've been lives lost all around the world.
And, America, I might say—this is not—I didn't plan on saying this, but I'm going to anyway: We have an obligation in the United States of America to live up to who we are. America is the only—is a unique nation. We're the only nation formed based on an idea—an idea—not an ethnicity, not an ideology, not a—idea: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, et cetera.
Audience member. Yes.
The President. Well, here's the deal. Here's the deal. There are over a hundred countries in the world that have no capacity to help themselves right now. None.
And that's why—I got somewhat criticized, but that's why I've worked so darn hard—after being able to nail down, in the first 100 days, over 60 * million doses of vaccine for Americans, I went to Europe to meet what they call the "G-7" and then with NATO and then with the EU. And I promised that the United States, in the remainder of this year and the first half of next year, is going to provide a billion doses to the rest of the world. A billion doses. A half a billion of those will be done between now and January and the first half of next year.
The point being: I wanted the Nation to reflect what you all reflect. Everyone in this room, there's everything—you—I want to thank you for all you're doing. But the rest of the world is in trouble as well. We have to look out for one another. We really do.
And what you're doing here—go back to the United States—nonprofits directing folks to where to go; houses of worship opening onsite vaccination for congregants; my friend Reverend Barber is here, as I said, and countless faith leaders whose—who are truly doing God's work; college students providing rides for seniors.
So what's happening in America is what America is all about. That's what the rest of world is looking at: Are we what we advertise ourselves to be? It's because of people like you, here in Raleigh and in communities across America, that we're going to win this fight.
Look at the progress we made so far. Today, 66 percent of all American adults have gotten at least one shot. That includes 87 percent of all seniors of all colors; 75 percent of adults ages 40 and up have gotten a shot; and 70 percent of those age 30 and up.
Nationwide, we're seeing the lowest number of daily cases and deaths since the first day of the pandemic. And we've built equity into the heart of the vaccination program. I put together a vaccination team, headed by a really bright guy, and we put together a group of 23 doctors. And what they did was, we had one doc who does nothing but deal with equity—access for people.
There's a reason why it's been harder to get African Americans, initially, to get vaccinated: because they're used to be experimented on—the Tuskegee Airmen and others. People have memories. People have long memories. It's awful hard, as well, to get Latinx vaccinated as well. Why? They're worried that they'll be vaccinated and deported.
So look, from day one, something that Governor Cooper has been totally focused on is making sure we get as many people vaccinated, particularly people who don't have access to health care usually; who don't have ordinary—don't have doctors or family physicians, et cetera.
Seventy-three percent of the shots administered at community health centers through the Federal program we have and more than 58 percent of the shots administered in federally run vaccination sites have gone to people of color. It makes a gigantic difference. And across the Nation, people of color have accounted for more than half of all the vaccinations in the last month. The more we close the racial gap in vaccination rates, the more lives we can save.
And if I can pause for one second: That's why I've called for spending billions of dollars at NIH focusing on new ways to deal with obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer, and cancer—focus just on those diseases—money that private drug companies don't have the money to invest in or the inclination to. Because guess what? In most Black communities across America and Hispanic communities, how many stores have fresh vegetables? How many stores have a—I'll go down the list. It matters. The health condition a person enters this fight over makes a big difference as to what, in fact, is going to be able to be done.
Here in North Carolina, my administration has provided $105 million from the emergency—Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to help get people vaccinated. Working with the Governor and the mayors and county officials across the State, there are 240 personnel in the Tar Heel State just to put the needle in somebody's arm.
This has been a gigantic—a gigantic—logistical challenge not just in North Carolina, but all across America. More than 660 National Guard members have supported the COVID-19 response here in North Carolina. Over in Greensboro, we stood up the Federal vaccination site that alone has administered 135,000 shots.
The Governor and I visited one of the mobile units you're deploying to meet the people where they live. And as a result of these efforts Statewide, case deaths are down over 90 percent in the last 5 months.
All of this is great news. But here's the deal: For all the progress we've made as a country, hospitalizations and deaths are down drastically in places where people are getting vaccinated. The data couldn't be clearer: If you're vaccinated, you're safe. You are still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying if you, in fact, have not been vaccinated. That's just a fact.
And this new, dangerous variant that continues to emerge, it's now the most common variant in America and here. And unvaccinated people are incredibly vulnerable. This is a serious concern with what experts call the "Delta" variant. It is not only—according to the CDC, between 10 to 20 percent of all cases in the last 2 weeks have been the Delta variant.
Dr. Fauci has made it clear—he and my wife have been traveling the country to make this case—that it's more easily transmittable, this Delta variant, potentially deadlier, and especially dangerous for young people—for young people. He says it's the greatest threat to our fight to beat COVID-19.
But the good news is, we have a solution. The science is clear. The best way to protect yourself against the virus and its variants is to be fully vaccinated. It works. It's free. It's safe. It's easy. It's convenient.
Over 150 million Americans have gotten fully vaccinated, and they're safe and protected now and even including against the Delta variant. They're getting back to living their lives and spending time with their loved ones. But we need more people to get fully vaccinated to finish the job. That's why I'm here.
I called for June to be the "Month of Action" to get folks vaccinated so we can all enjoy a Fourth of July with our independence from the virus—from the virus. If you're already vaccinated, make sure your family and friends are vaccinated. Help them make a plan to get vaccinated.
If you've gotten your first shot, make sure you get your second one to be fully protected. It's a big deal.
Audience member. Right!
The President. And if you're not vaccinated, don't put it off any longer. Just do it.
Audience member. Yeah!
The President. Just do it. And it's never been easier. It's never been easier to do it.
Text your ZIP Code to 438829—438829. And immediately, it will pop up to find the vaccination sites closest to you. And hardly anyone is beyond 5 miles from a potential site.
Get a free ride to and from your vaccination sites. I want to publicly thank—when I asked for help, both Lyft or Uber said between the time—this last month to July 4, they'll provide a ride free to and from. They'll wait and take you back home.
Thousands of pharmacies are offering no-appointment, walk-in vaccinations. More than 1,400 pharmacies are in North Carolina that do that. They've already administered over 2.2 million shots, these pharmacies. Many of them are open 24 hours on Fridays.
So go tomorrow if you've not gotten it done. Or when you're going out, knocking on doors, tell them, "Tomorrow, 24 hours, a majority of these drugstores are open." Get it done. Get it done and get it done at their convenience.
And if you still have questions, that's okay. Talk to people who you know who have gotten the shot. That's what you guys are out there—going to be doing, knocking on doors. Talk to your doctor or your health provider. If you don't have one, physicians know it's the right choice to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities.
And listen to North Carolina's own Dr. Kizzy Corbett, you know, from Hurdle Mills, just about an hour north from here. She's a scientist at NIH that I met several weeks ago who helped develop the COVID-19 vaccine, a vaccine that was developed after decades of research under Republican and Democratic administrations. As I said, I met her earlier this year during a tour of the NIH Vaccine Research Center where this all happened. She's incredible.
Folks, there is no reason to leave yourself vulnerable to the deadly virus for 1 single day more. And as they say in my church, I'm preaching to the choir, I know. [Laughter] But the television is recording this. [Laughter] Make the case. Let people know getting vaccinated is not only maybe going to save their lives, but save their mother, their father, their child, their son, their daughter, their coworker.
So, please, please get vaccinated. And let everyone do our part. Let's everyone do it.
This weekend, we will be hosting another nationwide canvassing event where volunteers like you are going to knock on doors and talk to their friends and neighbors and help finish the job of getting America vaccinated.
To join that effort, I say to the people watching this—because these people have already joined the effort: To join that effort, please visit wecandothis.HHS.governor—.gov, excuse me—wecandothis.HHS.gov. Sign up. Get involved. We can do this. We really can do this.
Let me close where I began. To all of you here today who are about to head out and canvass your communities: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I genuinely mean it. But just listen again to Ivy—graduated from Apex Friendship High, just finished her first year in school. She's been spending her summer doing door-to-door—going door to help get people vaccinated to stay safe.
And I'll bet what she had to say, when asked, is what a lot of you think as well. She said, quote—I hope you don't mind my repeating this, Ivy—but she said, quote: "Reaching out and giving back to the community is everything. I like to say . . . I don't dream of having a dream job or a dream career, but I dream of truly helping people in the best way I can . . . that's my life goal."
This can be among one of the most important things you do. I really mean it. And again, remember—I think you're probably the least ones that have to remember—remember: 600,000-plus Americans have died—600,000-plus Americans have died. This Delta variant—you know there's going to be others as well. You know what's going to happen. We've got to get our young people vaccinated.
So talk to those moms when you knock on the door. Tell them about—tell them about—why it's so important to get their children.
You may remember, I got widely criticized when I suggested we keep dropping the age of people eligible for vaccinations. It's been based on the science. I didn't do anything based on a whim. The science, the tests show that.
And what's going to happen here, I predict, as soon as we go from temporary approval to permanent approval—which just takes time; it's not that it's—don't think it's there—it's going to increase the number of people willing to move as well.
So, Ivy, thank you for representing the best of us. Thank all of you for representing the best of us. You've all got the whole world in front of you. And you know, it's because of—it's because of people like Ivy and all of you why I have so much faith in the future.
I'm not being—you know, if you notice, I've been unfairly criticized for being optimistic. I've been fairly criticized because I think we can actually pull people together. I ran—when I ran for President, I ran for three reasons. I said, one, is restore the soul of America—just basic decency, looking out for one another.
And, two, because we had to rebuild the backbone of this country that had been so damaged, which is the middle class——
Audience member. That's right!
The President. ——working class folks and middle class folks. It was about time to build the economy from the middle up and out and from the middle class up. That's what we have to do.
Folks, let's really let this be the summer of joy and freedom. Let it really happen. Let's celebrate the Fourth of July with the independence from the virus. We can get this done. We—no, we really can get this done, and we really can do it.
But you know what? I said the third reason I was running was to unify the country.
Audience members. Yes!
The President. Well, folks, it's never been as divided as it is today—never been as divided as it is today, since the Civil War.
And, folks, it's such a waste of talent, such a waste of time. And the rest of the world is looking at us. The rest of the world is wondering whether or not can we really lead the world again. The last 4 years have been devastating to our leadership around the world. I'm not making this—but it's true.
But here's the way we lead: Like you always lead—those who lead better than I and others—you lead by example, and the example is twofold. And I'll end with this. One is making sure we do everything in our power to walk that extra mile, to knock on that door, to pick up the phone, to actually pull up in your own vehicle and take someone who needs to get to a vaccination site. Convince them. Let them know why it's so important. Let them know. Because people respond to individual relationships, even new ones. "I got it. My brother got it. My sister got it. I took my daughter, and she got it," et cetera.
And secondly, let the world know that when it comes down to lifesaving initiatives, no matter where they are—but they come from us—we should share them with the world—the whole world. We're even giving some of these vaccines to nations that are not our friends, because the people are not the ones who are not our friends—the leadership.
So, folks, there's a lot we can do. As I said, I have faith in your generation. The reason I'm so optimistic is because you're the most incredible generation in American history. I'm not being solicitous. Number one, you're the least prejudiced generation in history, number one.
Number two, you volunteer than most—any other generation, including my vaulted generation of the sixties. [Laughter] You—no, I mean it. We are proud of what we did, but you volunteer.
Number three, you're the best educated generation in the history of America.
And I believe our dealing with equity is only the beginning as it relates to vaccine. The first executive order I signed was insisting that every one of my Cabinet members focus on racial equity—because we have a—we have a chance—we have a chance to make significant change in this country, and it's going to come from what you guys do. I really mean it. I can't thank you enough.
Sorry to take so much of your time, but God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:33 p.m. at the Green Road Community Center. In his remarks, he referred to William J. Barber II, senior pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC; Raleigh, NC, resident Ivy Jones; Chief Science Officer for COVID Response David Kessler; COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair Marcella Nunez-Smith; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) Director Anthony S. Fauci; and Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Senior Research Fellow and Scientific Lead for Coronavirus Vaccines and Immunopathogenesis Team, NIH's Vaccine Research Center.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the COVID-19 Response and National Vaccination Efforts in Raleigh, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350598