President Joe Biden spoke briefly on Thursday in an effort to continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated, only now he's pressing that message to US parents, as well.
He claimed that parents are anxiously awaiting the shots to be approved for children ages 5 to 11, and that school boards, and others, are working to dispel misinformation about vaccines and COVID-inspired restrictions. After his short speech, he walked away without taking any questions.
Biden spoke with pride of his "plans" to "accelerate the path out of this pandemic."
"It's working," he said. "We're making progress." He spoke of the numbers of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID, but said that despite all this, the "66 million" of Americans that are still unvaccinated is "unacceptably high."
He said that this is "important progress, but it's not, now's not the time to let up, we have a lot more to do. We're in a very critical period," he said. And he wants those 66 million people to get vaccinated. "It's essential," he said.
Biden said that the vaccine requirements are working "are working, they're working," because they have forced so many Americans to get vaccinated. He said there were 100 million unvaccinated Americans prior to the roll-out of federal mandates.
"The Labor Department," Biden said, "is going to soon be issuing an emergency rule for companies with 100 or more employees to implement vaccination requirements, and they're, among their workforce. Every day we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements, and the mounting data shows that they work."
"Businesses and organizations that are implementing requirements are seeing their vaccination rates rise by an average of 20 percent or more to well over 90 percent, a number of employees vaccinated," he said of the forced compliance.
Despite that, Biden insisted that no American should have a problem with vaccine requirements. Many entertainers, sports figures, politicians, and citizens have taken issue with being forced to get vaccinated, and have refused to do so on those grounds alone. Many others have stated their refusal to comply with vaccine mandates, even if they have taken the vaccination themselves.
"Let's be clear: Vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us," Biden said. "That's why we continue to battle the misinformation that's out there, and companies and communities are setting up they're stepping up as well to combat these misinformation."
He spoke about the recent service disruptions at Southwest Airlines, that came over the weekend, right after the pilots association for that airline had filed a law suit in opposition to the mandates by Southwest. These came at the behest of the Biden administration, which has previously required all businesses that contract with the federal government to implement vaccination requirements for employees. The CEO of Southwest as well as the head of the pilots union said that the disruptions were not because of vaccine mandates, but because of what they termed "absenteeism" as well as weather trouble.
"Southwest Airlines. The head of the pilot of the head of the pilots union and its CEO dismiss critics who claim vaccination mandates contribute to flight disruptions," Biden said of the union and airline's talking points.
Biden pointed to "School board members, religious leaders, and doctors across the country," who he said "are fighting misinformation and educating people about the importance of vaccines. All these efforts are going to help us continue moving the dial to eliminate this disease."
Even those who get vaccinated, he said, need to be protected from the disease. To this end, he touted the existing booster shots wherein a person who has been vaccinated but seen the efficacy of that vaccine decline can get a third dose. More boosters are being reviewed by the FDA so that all approved vaccines from US pharmaceutical companies can be available for a third dose. These shots, too, will be paid for by the federal government and available to all.
It's not just seniors and vulnerable people, Biden said, who need more vaccines. Children, for whom a vaccine has not yet been authorized, will also be pressed to be vaccinated. To date, less than 500 children ages 0-18 have died with COVID as a listed cause since the beginning of the pandemic.
"We need to continue to keep our schools and our students safe," he said, though there have not been any major outbreaks resulting in casualties or even excessive hospitalizations. "96 percent of school districts are fully open with children back in the classroom and for in person learning."
He congratulated his administration for that effort, despite having worked closely with teachers' unions to keep schools closed at their behest. "We have been able to do this because we provided our schools the resources they need to protect children and the educators, as well as the staff that works in the schools," Biden said.
"We've been encouraging schools to implement important health measures by masking, testing, and getting everyone vaccinated who is eligible to be vaccinated," he said.
Biden said that he knows that "parents out there are anxiously waiting for a vaccine for children ages five to 11. The good news is the FDA and outside experts from the CDC are set to make his determination as to whether the vaccine will be authorized for that age range in the next few weeks. If authorized, we are ready. We have purchased enough vaccines for all children between the ages of five and 11 in the United States. And it be, it'll be convenient for parents to get their children vaccinated at trusted locations, and families will be able to sleep easier at night knowing their kids are protected as well."
He demanded that more businesses "step up" and require their employees to get vaccinated, and urged parents to "get their children vaccinated when they are eligible. I'm asking everyone. Everyone who hasn't gotten vaccinated, please get vaccinated."
Biden insisted that his plans are working, that defeating COVID is the only way to boost the economy, and walked away from the podium without taking questions.