Chair Clyburn’s Opening and Closing Statements at Hearing with Bipartisan Witnesses on Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy
Jul 1, 2021
Washington, D.C. (July 1, 2021) —Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, delivered the following opening and closing statements at today’s hybrid hearing on combating coronavirus vaccine hesitancy and increasing vaccinations across the country:
Opening Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
We are here this morning to discuss an issue of broad bipartisan concern: the critical need to overcome vaccine hesitancy so that more Americans get vaccinated against this deadly virus.
I would like to thank Ranking Member Scalise for joining me in inviting today’s witnesses to testify. This is not a partisan issue. The virus is equally dangerous for Democrats and Republicans, and the vaccines are equally safe and effective for Democrats and Republicans.
I would also like to thank today’s witnesses for taking the time to testify about this critical issue.
The coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States are proven to be safe and effective, and they have enabled our country to make significant progress in containing the virus and saving lives.
This graph speaks for itself: As more and more Americans get vaccinated, fewer and fewer are dying from the coronavirus.
Yet too many Americans remain unprotected against this deadly disease because they are hesitant to receive coronavirus vaccines. This vaccine hesitancy is allowing the virus to continue to spread in areas with large unvaccinated populations and increasing the risk that vaccine-resistant variants will emerge.
Polls show that up to one in five American adults say they are strongly opposed to getting a coronavirus vaccine. Vaccination rates are particularly low in the South and rural West. In both regions, less than 40 percent of the total population of multiple states is fully vaccinated.
In my home state of South Carolina, for example, only 39 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated.
Most concerning, we are still losing hundreds of Americans to the coronavirus every day. Nearly all of the more than 8,500 Americans who died from COVID-19 last month were unvaccinated. If more Americans got their shots, we could reduce coronavirus deaths to nearly zero.
At this critical juncture, we must not lose sight of the work that remains to finally stop the spread of the virus in the United States. We must undertake dedicated efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy and redouble our outreach and education, so that we can find a way to convince those who are reluctant of the importance of getting vaccinated. We must overcome access barriers and address informational needs, particularly in communities of color, so that we can make it easier for everyone to get vaccinated. We must identify innovative ways to increase vaccine uptake.
The Biden Administration has made tremendous progress in making coronavirus vaccines available to all eligible Americans. They are continuing to work to enhance vaccine access for all communities and to promote confidence in the vaccines. Their unprecedented efforts have helped vaccinate more than 179 million Americans in record time, but more work is needed to prevent backsliding on this hard-fought progress.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the strategies that are effective to overcome vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine uptake, and about how we can better inform the American public and encourage those who may be hesitant to feel confident in getting their shots.
Thank you. I now yield to the Ranking Member for his opening statement.
Closing Remarks (as prepared for delivery):
In closing, I want to thank Mr. Garza, Dr. Benjamin, Dr. Milkman, Dr. Adams, and Ms. Bush for testifying before the Select Subcommittee today. We appreciate your personal stories, your expertise, and your leadership. I would also like to thank the Ranking Member for your participation in this effort.
We need to inform all Americans of the truth: coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective.
To overcome hesitancy around the country, we must meet the skeptical where they are. We must enlist community organizations and trusted community messengers to inform the groups they represent. We must also continue working to break down barriers in vulnerable communities—including technology, transportation, and language disparities—to reach those who want the vaccine but are unable to get it.
We must also recognize that there are many unvaccinated Americans on the fence—not opposed to getting vaccinated, but not eager enough to have done so already. We can learn from those states who have come up with smart ways, such as lotteries, free giveaways, sweepstakes, and other incentives, to increase uptake among those who need extra encouragement.
The American public is still at risk. The more that the coronavirus continues to circulate—both in the United States and globally—the greater the risk that deadlier, more contagious, and vaccine-resistant variants could emerge. To lower this risk, and to end the pandemic once and for all, it is critical to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
We need to continue developing and implementing innovative solutions to encourage everyone to receive their vaccinations. I look forward to working with all of today’s panelists, with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and with the Biden Administration to do so.
With that, without objection, all Members will have 5 legislative days within which to submit additional written questions for the witnesses to the Chair, which will be forwarded to the witnesses for their response.
This hearing is adjourned.