Burr: The COVID-19 Vaccine Is Fastest Way for Country to Recover from Pandemic

Senate HELP Committee examines significance of safe, effective vaccines, ways to address vaccine hesitancy

Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing entitled, “Vaccines: America’s Shot at Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Ranking Member Richard Burr’s Prepared Opening Statement:

“Chair Murray, I am glad we are able to hold this important hearing together today.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the fastest way for our country to recover from this pandemic.

“We all have to do our part in encouraging Americans to take this safe and effective vaccine.

“I have experienced the hesitancy of some Americans to take the shot first hand, with friends and family members wondering whether the vaccine is safe enough for their families.

“The answer is absolutely yes.

“I got the vaccine, so did my wife, and my children. When the FDA authorizes the vaccine for children under 12, I will encourage my grandchildren to get it too.

“The staff in this hearing room have gotten the vaccine, and my Senate colleagues have gotten the vaccine or had COVID-19 themselves, which provides at least some natural immunity.

“Clinical trial data shows that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine are 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 85 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and death from the virus.

“A year ago, when we were in the darkest days of the pandemic, I thought people would line up for miles to get a vaccine that kept you out of the hospital and prevented you from dying from COVID-19.

“I still believe that, which is why this hearing is so important.

“We have experienced so much loss in this country over the last year, and now we have a tool – the vaccine – to end this and return to normal.

“Let’s use it.

“The efforts of Operation Warp Speed brought our country and the world three vaccines to protect against COVID-19. They are safe. They are effective.

“Operation Warp Speed is a testament to American innovation and ingenuity, and shows that the framework we designed in the statute actually worked.

“The vaccines we have for COVID-19 are safe, and they work.

“Pfizer is 95 percent effective, Moderna is over 94 percent effective, and Johnson & Johnson is 67 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

“Today, over 177 million people have received at least one dose.

“Fifty-five percent of adults in America are fully vaccinated.

“Over 87 percent of seniors, those most vulnerable to the effects of the virus, have received at least one dose of the shot.

“At least 10 percent of Americans have had COVID-19, so there are also a number of people who have some natural immunity to the virus.

“Even with all of this progress, there is more work to be done.

“I said during our last COVID-19 Task Force hearing with the Administration that we would reach a point where we have more shots than we do arms to put them in.

“This moment has arrived in the United States, and we cannot be complacent. 

“Israel showed us the roadmap for what to expect, where vaccination rates begin to level off as roughly 60 percent of the population becomes vaccinated.

“Reports out of India and the UK on the Delta variant are evidence of the importance of protecting Americans now, and encouraging everyone who still needs the vaccine to get it.

“The number of doses administered in the United States per day is falling.

“Earlier this month, the rates dropped below 1 million doses per day for the first time since January.

“That is compared to our peak in April of 3.3 million doses per day.

“Of the 328 million Americans, almost 284 million are 12 and older making them eligible for a vaccine. 

“Nearly 177 million people so far have received at least one dose, which means that around 106 million are still eligible.

“Clearly, we still have a ways to go to get all eligible people vaccinated and put this pandemic firmly behind us.

“We also cannot forget about the importance of global health security. If we do not help other countries access the vaccine, we will not see the end of this pandemic.

“The way to help other countries access vaccines to protect against COVID-19 is through the extremely successful public-private partnerships that have developed and manufactured the vaccines we have today. 

“As I have said before, removing the intellectual property protections only ensures that we don’t have the vaccines we need when the next pandemic occurs.

“Americans that have not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine need to know the benefits that come along with it.

“The most compelling case to me, is that the shot keeps you out of the hospital.

“It also gets you to go back to work, and helps keep people whose work you rely on safe as well.

“Tim Kaine said at a hearing earlier this year that he wore a mask so that the grocery clerk felt safe.

“Getting a vaccination helps keep you safe, keeps your family safe, and keeps those around you safe.

“It also helps Americans return to the things that they enjoy, like concerts, movies, baseball games, or watching the Panthers this fall.

“Over the next few months, important outreach efforts will continue to focus on younger people.

“Schools are reopening in the fall, and one of the vaccines is already available for children 12 years and up.

“In-person learning is critical, and our efforts over the summer should be focused on getting kids the shot – protecting them from the virus.

“As a grandparent, I look forward to the day when the vaccine is available to young children as well.

“I am pleased to have representatives from Sesame Street here today to talk about the information families need as we prepare for that round of vaccinations.

“Our efforts should also be focused on reaching communities that have questions.

“I look forward to hearing from each of our witnesses about the partnerships and programs underway to meet Americans where they are at, answer questions, dispel myths about safe and effective vaccines, and get more shots into arms. 

“I thank the chair.”