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WASHINGTON — President Biden addressed the nation on Tuesday afternoon to tout the safety of coronavirus vaccines and warn against continued political interference by Republican elected officials.
“Finally, some peace of mind,” Biden said, referencing the many months parents have waited to vaccinate young children, a delay caused in part by regulators’ insistence that vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer submit their trial results in tandem.
“The United States is now the first country in the world to offer safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. For the first time in our fight against this pandemic, nearly every American can have access to lifesaving vaccines,” the president said.
At the same time, he issued a warning seemingly aimed at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has waged a months-long culture war against the Biden administration over the coronavirus. Last week, DeSantis said Florida would not be ordering doses of COVID vaccines for children, a stance he reiterated on Monday. Florida is the only state to take that position.
“Elected officials shouldn’t get in the way and make it more difficult for parents who want their children to be vaccinated, who want to protect them and those around them,” Biden said, not naming DeSantis but leaving little ambiguity about the target of his warning.
“This is no time for politics. It’s about parents being able to do everything they can to keep their children safe.”
Biden spoke from the White House. He was introduced by Arsema Desta, a nurse who leads a vaccination center in Washington, D.C. Also present was Dr. Ashish Jha, who heads the White House pandemic response team. He and other public health officials have been working on the rollout of vaccinations for young children, a cohort that presents unique challenges.
“We’ve secured enough doses and we’re launching a comprehensive effort with state, local health departments, pediatricians, family doctors, pharmacies, rural health clinics, community health centers and other trusted messengers and partners to get the word out to help to get shots in arms,” Biden said.
Jha has surmised that most parents would seek to vaccinate their children at pediatricians’ offices.
“And that means it’s going to take time, that we’re not going to see massive numbers in the first days and weeks,” he told NPR over the weekend, “that this will build up over days and weeks and months as parents have the time to go in, have those conversations, and then get their children vaccinated.”
The forecast was a notable departure from the early days of the vaccination effort, when the Biden administration touted hundreds of thousands of new shots per day. The pace has considerably slowed since then.