President Joe Biden traveled to Michigan Friday to tour a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant near Kalamazoo, amid the winter weather causing COVID-19 vaccine delays.
Biden was joined on the tour by Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as well coronavirus taskforce director Jeffrey Zients, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla and the facility’s production lead, Shawn Hamilton.
Bourla announced at the top of the president’s remarks that Pfizer would be more than doubling their production capacity in the next couple of weeks, from the current average of 5 million doses per week.
‘We are on track to provide the U.S. government, a total of 120 million doses by the end of March and to reach 200 million doses released by the end of May, two months ahead of the original schedule of that milestone,’ Bourla said. ‘Of course today during this meeting the president challenged us to identify additional ways in which his administration could help us potentially accelerate even further the delivery of the full 300 million doses earlier than July.’
‘Mr. President, the challenge is accepted,’ Bourla said.
When it was the president’s turn to speak, he continued to slap around his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
‘My predecessor, as my mother would say, God love em’, failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers,’ Biden said.
He also remarked, ‘You can’t build a wall or a fence high enough to keep a pandemic out,’ another brief slap at the ex-president.
President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the vaccine roll-out and pushed Congress to pass his COVID-19 relief plan during his trip to a Pfizer plant Friday in Kalamazoo, Michigan
President Joe Biden (left), Jeffrey Zients (center left), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (center right) and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (right) tour the Pfizer vaccine plant Friday in Michigan
President Joe Biden walks through the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine plant near Kalamazoo, Michigan on Friday
President Joe Biden (right) addresses reporters as he tours a Michigan Pfizer plant alongside the state’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left)
Workers at the Pfizer plant show President Joe Biden (right) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (left) how they load vaccine doses into cold storage in the so-called ‘freezer farm’
Pfizer exployees loaded vaccine doses into freezers during President Joe Biden’s Michigan tour on Friday
President Joe Biden (right) observes a Pfizer worker during a tour of a Portage, Michigan vaccine facility
Biden pledged that his new administration was doing everything in its power to get the U.S out of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I can’t give you a date when this crisis will end. But I can tell you we are doing everything possible to ahve that day come sooner rather than later,’ Biden said a day shy of being in office for a month.
He joked during his remarks that it felt like ‘100 days,’ as he reiterated his pledge to get 100 million doses of vaccine administered in his first 100 days.
‘We’re on the path to do that,’ he said. ‘That’s just the floor, we have to keep going.’
Later, he estimated that the country could be out of the pandemic by the end of the year.
‘I believe we will be approaching normalcy by the end of the year. God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last,’ he said. ‘But I can’t make that commitment to you,’ he also said.
Biden, who spoke to a number of Pfizer workers as he toured the plant, talked how ‘personal’ that pandemic is, as one of them expressed that a father-in-law was dying of COVID. The president said he offered to make a call, but the ailing patient wouldn’t have heard it.
‘We’re going to beat this, we’re going to beat this,’ the president said.
He also spoke of the horrific death count, as the U.S. nears 500,000 people gone.
‘That is almost 70,000 more than all the Americans who died in World War II over a four year period,’ Biden noted. ‘All the sorrow, all the heartache, all the pain.’
He begged Americans to continue washing their hands, staying socially distant and wearing masks.
‘Lookl I know it’s inconvenient, but you’re making a difference when you do it,’ the president encouraged.
He also used the speech to put some heat of Republicans in Congress who are resisting spending $1.9 trillion on COVID-19 relief.
Snow in Washington prevented the Michigan trip from happening Thursday, so it was rescheduled for a day later.
On the way there, White House press secretary Jen Psask said that at the Pfizer facility ‘President Biden will see where much of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine is being manufactured.’
‘He will meet with those on the frontlines producing these vaccines and get an update on how his administration is working with them to increase output,’ Psaki added.
The press secretary also suggested that the administration would be able to play catch-up and recover from the weather delays.
She told reporters that the goal is to ‘get the backlog of vaccines out next week.’
‘We anticipate we can not only get the backlog out but we can stay on pace with what we are planning to distribute to States next week,’ she said. ‘So we are expecting we are going to be able to catch up next week.’
Earlier Friday, during a coronavirus taskforce press briefing coronavirus, response adviser Andy Slavitt assured reporters that the delays weren’t spoiling doses.
He said the vaccines are ‘safe and sounds’ under refrigeration in warehouses.
Biden’s first stop on the Pfizer tour was to the facility’s ‘freezer farm,’ of 350 freezers storing the Pfizer vaccine, which was the first to gain Food and Drug Administration approval.
Engineers at the Michigan plant helped design the ultra-cold vaccine thermal shipper, used to transport the vaccine across the U.S., the White House said.
Since then, the Moderna vaccine has also been approved. Both vaccines are two-dose shots.