President Joe Biden said Tuesday that one of the biggest challenges to distributing the coronavirus vaccine is that many people in Hispanic and black communities don’t know how to use the internet to find out where they can get their doses.
“A lot of people don’t know how to register,” Biden said during a CNN town hall. “Not everybody in the community, in the Hispanic and the African-American community, particularly in rural areas that are distant and, or inner-city districts know how to use, know how to get online to determine how to get in line for that COVID vaccination at the Walgreens.”
Critics accused the president, well known for making numerous gaffes throughout his political career, of stereotyping racial minorities.
Biden’s longer answer was in response to a question about racial disparities in coronavirus care from Dr. Dessie Levy, a registered nurse. Levy asked the president about vaccine rollout and concerns that black Americans are being vaccinated at lower rates than white Americans.
“There is some history of blacks being used as guinea pigs in other experiments, as I need not tell you, doctor, over the last 50 to 75 to 100 years in America, so there’s a concern about getting the vaccine whether it’s available or not,” Biden said. “But the biggest part of it is access, physical access.”
The president described how his administration, with the advice of the Congressional Black Caucus, is focused on distributing vaccines to community health centers in minority neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID to get “a million doses a week” delivered.
“We have opened up and I’m making sure that there’s doses of vaccine for over 6,700 pharmacies, because almost everyone lives within, not always walking distance, but within the distance of being able to go to the pharmacy, like when you got your flu shot,” Biden said.
He also said the administration is employing mobile vans to deliver vaccine doses to neighborhoods where people may have a difficult time traveling to the nearest pharmacy.
“The fact is if you’re 70 years old, you don’t have a vehicle, and you live in a tough neighborhood, meaning it’s a high concentration of COVID, you’re not likely be able to walk five miles to go get a vaccine,” he explained.
“We’re also committed to spend $1 billion on public education to help people figure out how they can get in there. That’s why we’re also trying to set up mass vaccination centers, like places in stadiums and the like.”
“Are you concerned about the rollout of this online?” host Anderson Cooper asked. Biden said he was, before criticizing the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution plan.
“We inherited a circumstance here where … a circumstance where, number one, there weren’t many vaccinators. You didn’t know where you could go get a vaccine administered to you because there was no one to put it in your arm, number one,” Biden told Cooper. “Number two, there was very little federal guidance, as to say what to look for, how to find out where, in fact, you could go.”
Now, Biden continued, nearly every state has some way in which people can find out how to get access to a vaccine.
“You can go online and every single state now has a slightly different mechanism by which they say who’s qualified, where you can get the vaccines and so on. So it’s all about trying to more rationalize in detail so ordinary people like me can understand, I mean that sincerely,” he said, jokingly adding that his grandkids make him look like he’s from the seventh century when it comes to using the internet.