Vice President Kamala Harris sat down with journalist Soledad O’Brien at the White House for a State of Our Union interview that aired Friday.
The exclusive conversation tackled topics such as access to vaccines and vaccine hesitancy — in which Harris noted “virtually everyone who is in hospital right now because of COVID-19 is unvaccinated” — as well as how the pandemic has impacted the economy and upcoming challenges.
O’Brien noted at the top of the interview that less than a quarter of African Americans are fully vaccinated, referencing the resistance that many still have to receiving the vaccine. “The vaccines are safe,” said Harris. “They are free, and they will save people’s lives.” Of those who were crucial in the creation of those vaccines, Harris highlighted the work of scientist Kizzmekia Corbett, an African American immunologist.
Harris continued to focus particularly on how the vaccine issues are affecting the Black community, noting that one in three Black people in America know somebody who has died from COVID-19. Speaking about access specifically, Harris emphasized that there are programs to support those having trouble physically getting to a vaccination site. Among them, ride-share services will pick people up and transport them to a site where they can receive the vaccine, and take them home. “I really do believe the biggest issue is information,” said Harris.
Of the Delta variant, she noted that it’s “by many accounts more lethal” and spreads faster than other variants. Overall, Harris emphasized that “virtually everyone who has died from COVID-19 was unvaccinated” and encouraged everyone to make a decision about what happens to their bodies. “So, the thing that I just want to remind folks of is that you have the power. Don’t let anybody take your power from you. You have the power to save your life.”
Speaking of the strategy to help Black people recover economically from the pandemic, Harris noted that the virus highlighted many “fractures” and “failures” in areas such as the education system and housing. As well as stimulus checks and the child tax credits, Harris explained that programs are being developed to help Black entrepreneurs gain access to capital.
The discussion also touched upon police reform, in which Harris urged the need for accountability. “I was actually one of the original authors of the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act and I feel very strongly that needs to be passed. There needs to be accountability for police officers who break the rules or break the laws.”
Harris went on to note that idea of public safety itself needs to be re-imagined, giving the example of some communities that have a low police presence, yet are thriving. She emphasized that there needs to be consequences for those who commit crimes, but at the same time — she highlighted that people need access to basic resources, especially in public education systems, to build strong and healthy communities.