White House Doubles Down On Vaccine Approach 
Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a Press Briefing (Photo: Cameron Smith)

The White House has continued its messaging and efforts around getting Americans vaccinated as some continue to resist the doses. Press Secretary Jen Psaki took the podium today to double down on the White House’s stance of supporting vaccines, but not mandating them. 

One reporter mentioned a recent survey’s data, that 45% of the unvaccinated people have said they would definitely not get vaccinated. Another 35% said they probably wouldn’t get vaccinated. 

The opposition on vaccines has continued to exist despite the Biden administration’s continued efforts to get Americans vaccinated, including awareness campaigns, vaccine accessibility and celebrity engagement by way of pop star Olivia Rodrigo. 

Psaki pivoted that opposition to the positive, reflecting on the shift in public attitude toward vaccines since December. Back then, only 30% of Americans were willing to get a shot, compared to the 68% of Americans today who have received a shot. 

Globally, the White House also announced their distribution of a record number of vaccine doses, 22 million to 23 different countries. The doses are a part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to get vaccines out worldwide. 

Psaki spotlighted improvement in states with lower vaccination rates. The five states with the highest case rates– Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada– have shown a higher rate of people getting vaccinated compared to the national average in the past few weeks. 

Despite those landmarks, and the over 162 million Americans vaccinated, concerns continue to rise over the growing threat of the Delta variant and consistent resistance towards vaccination for some Americans. 

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R.) was quoted saying it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the rise of COVID-19 cases in her state. Psaki rebuffed Ivey’s hard-line stance. 

“We’re not here to place blame or threats,” said Psaki, “we’re here to provide accurate information.” 

Psaki maintained the attitude around the government’s role when it came to mandates. As Delta concerns rise, the question of whether the federal government would begin to mandate vaccines has gained traction. 

“That’s not the role of the federal government, that is the role that institutions, private sector entities and others may take,” said Psaki. 

Instead, Psaki said the government and President’s role is to encourage people to get a shot, not mandate them. 

“The President’s role right now is to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated,” Psaki said, “because it is incredibly effective and protecting them from serious illness, death, from hospitalization from the virus.”  

Psaki still said those entities who do mandate vaccines are acting appropriately, but stressed that the government’s role is to convey information about the efficacy of vaccines and ensure its availability. 

Back at the White House, Psaki clarified that while every individual at the White House has been offered a vaccine, they aren’t mandating doses. 

The lack of mandate comes with Psaki’ recent reveal of positive COVID-19 cases among White House staff members. Major aides and staff members to Nancy Pelosi tested positive for COVID-19 after a rooftop reception at a DC hotel, and more have tested positive since. 

Psaki refused to provide a percentage on the amount of employees who are vaccinated, responding with a question of why reporters need the information. She instead provided reports on CDC efforts to track COVID-19 cases nationwide. 

The White House has long repeated that “If you’re vaccinated, you’re safe”, even as cases are on the rise again. Yet Pfizer recently announced the US is in the process of purchasing another 200 million doses from the company.

Psaki confirmed the purchase, but ensured the action was a contingency plan. 

“We’ve always prepared for every scenario,” said Psaki. She said the government is simply exercising the option in its contract to purchase doses to be delivered in the Fall of 2021 and in the Spring of 2022.

She said the administration still doesn’t know if vaccinated people will need a booster shot, or what the research on vaccines and kids under 12 will unearth. 

As the COVID-19 landscape continues to change, Psaki stressed the administration’s trust in the CDC. 

“We’re always going to follow the guidance of our health and medical experts,” said Psaki.