Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with reporter Soledad O’Brien at the White House for a State of our union interview aired Friday.
The exclusive conversation touched on topics such as access to vaccines and vaccine reluctance – in which Harris noted that “virtually everyone who is in hospital right now due to COVID-19 is unvaccinated. – as well as the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the challenges to come.
O’Brien noted at the top of the interview that less than a quarter of African Americans are fully vaccinated, referring to the resistance many still have to receiving the vaccine. “The vaccines are safe,” said Harris. “They are free and they will save lives. Among those who were instrumental in creating these vaccines, Harris highlighted the work of scientist Kizzmekia Corbett, an African-American immunologist.
Harris continued to focus in particular on how vaccine issues affect the black community, noting that one in three blacks in America know someone who has died of COVID-19. Speaking specifically about access, Harris pointed out that there are programs to help those who are struggling to physically get to a vaccination site. Among them, carpooling services will pick up people and transport them to a site where they can get vaccinated and bring them home. “I really believe the biggest problem is information,” Harris said.
Regarding the Delta variant, she noted that it is “in many ways more deadly” and spreads faster than the other variants. Overall, Harris stressed that “virtually all of the people who have died from COVID-19 have not been vaccinated” and encouraged everyone to make a decision about what is happening to their bodies. “So the thing I just want to remind people is that you have the power. Don’t let anyone take your power away from you. You have the power to save your life.
Speaking about the strategy to help black people recover economically from the pandemic, Harris noted that the virus has highlighted many “fractures” and “failures” in areas such as the education system and housing. In addition to stimulus checks and child tax credits, Harris explained that programs are being developed to help black entrepreneurs access capital.
The discussion also focused on police reform, in which Harris stressed the need for accountability. “I was actually one of the original authors of the George Floyd Justice and Police Act and I have a strong belief that it needs to be passed. There must be accountability for the police who break the rules or break the laws. “
Harris went on to note that the idea of public safety itself needs to be rethought, giving the example of some communities that have a weak police presence, but thrive. She stressed that there must be consequences for those who commit crimes, but at the same time, she stressed that people need to access basic resources, especially in public education systems, to building strong and healthy communities.