Vice President Kamala Harris Touts St. Louis’ Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Site
One of the persistent storylines of 2021 was the inability of many St. Louis residents to gain access to the COVID-19 vaccines. That has led dozens of people to travel hours from home to get their shots.
However, as vaccine supply increases, more and more vaccination spots are available in the St. Louis area. And Vice President Kamala Harris hopes a federal mass vaccination center at the America’s Center Convention Complex will force more people to bring their footage closer to home.
In an interview with Jason Rosenbaum on St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday, Harris spoke about the Biden government’s efforts to reduce travel time for people seeking the vaccine.
She also discussed how the Democratic government is fighting vaccine reluctance, especially among Republicans who may not be receptive to the Biden government’s agenda.
(The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.)
Jason Rosenbaum: St. Louis residents traveled hundreds of miles to get their COVID-19 vaccines. How will using the America’s Center Convention Complex as a federal vaccination site encourage people to bring their shots closer to home?
Vice President Kamala Harris: It will have the capacity to handle 3,000 shots a day. I’m telling you that the president … recently made it clear that we are committed to ensuring that 90 percent of adults in America get a shot within five miles of their home. Because we want to avoid exactly what you are talking about. We want to make sure that it becomes easy for people to get vaccinated, and that means that they are accessible to them – without people having to travel long distances to get the vaccines that will save their lives.
In fact, by April 19, we made a commitment that 90 percent of adults in the United States will be eligible for vaccinations. And really, our real urge right now is to push anyone who can be vaccinated, who wants to be vaccinated – to get vaccinated. It will save your life and the lives of our family members and community members.
Rosenbaum: The Biden government is expanding vaccines to thousands of other pharmacies. Do you see pharmacies as the possible standard place to get the vaccine in a few months, as opposed to mass vaccination centers like the one in St. Louis?
Harris: The pharmacies were very effective. Of course, people have routines for going to the pharmacy in their neighborhood. Many of the pharmacies are also located in grocery stores that regularly buy groceries. So this has proven to be very effective. But I’ll tell you what is also effective is our community health centers.
You heard the President speak about it: we are very much aware of racial differences in terms of vaccination, accessibility and making sure there are trustworthy sources and places to get people vaccinated. And we have found that the community health centers are just as effective and even more effective than pharmacies.
So it is both, in addition to the mass vaccination centers that we are now running. However, the others will continue to work on support and resource acquisition.
Rosenbaum: Yamiche Alcindor of PBS NewsHour recently released a report that found Republicans are being polled as the most vaccine reluctant group. I understand that a democratic government is not a perfect ambassador for a GOP-driven state like Missouri. But how is it your responsibility to control the virus, how are you going to deal with the hesitation of the vaccine among people who may politically disagree with the Biden government?
Harris: Trust the health professionals. Trust the doctors. Trust the scientists. We want you to take our word for it, but take Dr. [Anthony] Fauci by Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky – those scientists who have always done this work. And honestly, I have no idea who they voted for in the last election. But I know they know their science and know their medicine. And the people in their communities trust them.
And they are trustworthy ambassadors for people who voted across the board for everyone they voted for – but also for so-called conservative voters. Doctors of America knew very clearly that when it is your turn to get the vaccine – it will save your life.
Republicans in Missouri are shying away from expanding Medicaid under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act, even though the American bailout plan would raise the state more than $ 1 billion for such measures.
Rosenbaum: The American rescue plan is expected to bring billions of dollars to Missouri, including more money if the state expands Medicaid under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act. But some political leaders in states who might use this idea, including Missouri, shy away from not wanting to expand this program. Why do you think it is time for a state to expand Medicaid and access this part of the US bailout?
Harris: The American people are non-partisan and support what we’ve done. It is a very different case when you are talking about elected people.
And unfortunately, we have seen real partisanship towards elected people, but not towards the American people. In 2020, Missouri residents voted to expand Medicaid. So people voted for it. But I think it’s a different case if you talk about the elected officials and where they stand on this matter. But we are very clear. Look, Missouri is eligible for additional funding from the American Rescue Plan if it does the Medicaid expansion. So Missouri is poised to make more money and increase the number of people who have health insurance.
But it is in the hands of your elected leaders right now. But the Missouri people said they wanted to.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum