Despite rising concern surrounding the Delta variant of COVID-19, Psaki has continued to promote the White House message surrounding vaccines.
She fell back onto the idea that COVID-19 is currently a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, as she’s stated in prior briefings.
That messaging has come under scrutiny as a few vaccinated individuals have become infected with COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant.
Psaki said the White House “doesn’t rely on individual, anecdotal cases” of COVID-19 among vaccinated people, and instead repeated sentiments of the safety of the vaccine.
Vaccine mandates have become an increasingly large part of the conversation as some private entities choose to make the shot mandatory. 57 leading health care groups including the American Medical Association have mandated employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Even as Psaki promoted the safety of the vaccine, she stressed the White House belief that it is not the federal government’s role to mandate vaccines. The White House currently does not mandate vaccines for federal employees.
Still, the press secretary has expressed approval for those that do choose to mandate the vaccine, and acknowledged the high rates of vaccination among teachers and physicians, both professions passing the 90% threshold in vaccination rates.
Yet even as vaccination rates are growing in some areas, COVID-19 cases are surging across the country due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“We are seeing a significant rise in cases in certain parts of the country and among certain populations, and they’re concentrated primarily and overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated,” said Psaki.
Psaki underlined the story of a conservative radio host who grew to support and advocate for the vaccine after a battle with COVID-19. She noted that the White House doesn’t “want it to be the breaking point”, but that for many, catching COVID-19 is what will change minds.
Not the entire population can currently get the vaccine, though. The FDA is still working on the approval process for vaccine safety for kids under 12, a task made more urgent by the looming start of the school year.
“They are always going to be driven by the speed of science,” Psaki said of the FDA. She stressed that “we all want to see” vaccines for kids under 12, but that the FDA must move at their own speed.
While the White House hasn’t changed its tune on vaccine mandates or encouraging Americans to “mask up” again, Psaki did announce that the government will maintain existing travel restrictions due to the global spread of the Delta variant.
Psaki has repeatedly fallen back on the CDC when questioned on White House policy and actions in the wake of the Delta variant, calling it their “north star”. She cites their data as the decision-maker for the White House.
“We don’t make these recommendations based on politics, we make them based on data,” said Psaki. She said the administration is in constant conversation with the CDC on changing data.
When questioned on the timeliness of CDC data, Psaki pivoted the message towards a broader goal.
“Regardless, the most effective step we can take around the country is to get more people vaccinated,” Psaki said.