Mid-afternoon on Tuesday President Biden addressed the press and the nation giving a progress report/next phase action plan on the pandemic. It was worth paying attention to and certainly worth my comments today.
Typical Biden, it was quick, effective and plain enough for all to understand. I’ve never really met him and my only personal interaction with him was being in the same meeting in the summer of 2012 but he does seem like a regular guy. Amtrak Joe, Uncle Joe, Scranton Joe; they all make sense to me.
I’m writing this minutes after the address so I have no idea what the press will do but my takeaway was part of a simple line he used when referring to the vaccination program going forward, “…easy, fast and free.”
Biden started by recapping the vaccination program to date. The bottom lines are that over 150 million Americans have received at least 1 shot and 105 million of them are fully vaccinated. Keep those numbers in mind, they become important later.
Then he outlined the next phase which has three steps.
The first step is anticipatory but then good mangers (or basketball coaches) always are. (Managing is not that different from coaching; lots of what if questions and you better have the answers.) It was a plan to vaccinate 12 to 15 year-olds in anticipation of FDA approval. Biden assured the nation that if the FDA issues its approval to vaccinate that age group the administration is ready. (Going into a game you better know what you are going to do if your opponent goes zone against you.)
The second step was a realization that the low hanging fruit has mostly been vaccinated and in order to continue to vaccinate large numbers of Americans the program has to stress convenience. There are many roadblocks for some of the unvaccinated but none more so than where do I go and when. The Biden administration has set up a website vaccines.gov and a text number 438829 to help people access that information. Not a panacea but two huge steps forward. The hassle (and for some it is more than just that) of setting up an appointment is a barrier. Not everyone is retired, healthy, has transportation and lives in a populated area like me. Most vaccination facilities will now be offering walk-in opportunities. I’m sure there will be constraints and/or glitches but again a huge step forward.
Step three was the one I was the least impressed with. Perhaps that is because it is the most difficult obstacle to overcome – the unsure. I was among the skeptical in late 2020 and quickly educated myself as to the prudence of getting vaccinated. I was vaccinated soon after my age group was eligible in my state. Again, I have advantages that some others don’t have. I can do critical thinking and evaluate both the information I receive and its source.
A large part of this step seems to rely on the truth. Unfortunately with many under the spell of right wing mythology that may be insufficient. The most effective part of the plan seemed to rely on person-to-person communication. I have long felt the best way to combat misinformation was with ground level, neighborhood influencers telling the truth. With that in mind make it your mission to politely (and that part will be challenging) talk to those you may be able to influence.
I’ll relay a personal story. I ran into a neighbor for the first time in months a few weeks ago. Like me he is a senior citizen so I knew he was eligible. I asked him if he got his shot yet and shared that I had no side effects either time (I’m usually lucky with drugs). He told me he hadn’t. I could tell he wasn’t opposed and he said he hadn’t got around to it yet. I told him how easy it was and where it was available locally. We had a very short discussion of the cost/benefit decision involved and he said, “You have a point there.” I don’t know if he got vaccinated or not but I bet he did. This type of person is persuadable and crucial to our collective health.
In his wrap-up Biden got announced his new goal (which will probably be the headline of most newscasts and articles because it sells): 70% of the adult population vaccinated by July 4th. That means 160 million Americans fully vaccinated. Considering we are currently at 105 million and another 45 million already well on their way; that is a very achievable goal. My advice is that if anybody wants to bet against it – take the bet. Biden has a track record of under promising and over delivering. In reality all that has to be done in the next two months is fully vaccinating 10 million and finishing up on 45 million others. If that existed in a vacuum it would entail a little over 1 million shots a day over that time period. Even as vaccinations have predictably slowed in the past week or so we are still averaging well over 2 million a day.
Mostly in the brief Q&A session following the speech Biden committed to helping the world. This is a topic that deserves more than a paragraph but just keep in mind that a pandemic by definition is global. If you haven’t stopped it everywhere you have stopped it nowhere.
Easy, fast and free; sounds to me like the government is removing as many barriers as possible.
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