Greenville, South Carolina - Remarks by Vice President Pence at Roundtable Discussion on COVID-19 Vaccine Progress and Distribution Stage:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Governor McMaster. Thank you for not only your hospitality today and the hospitality of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, but also, Governor, I just want to take a moment, on the President’s behalf, on the Secretary’s behalf, and on behalf of everyone on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, to say thank you to you — to you, to your wonderful wife Peggy, to Lieutenant Governor Evette, and every member of your administration here in the state of South Carolina — for the leadership that you have provided for the people of this state.
I’ve worked with every governor in every state and every territory of America, but I can tell the people here of South Carolina that all along the way, Governor Henry McMaster has put the health of the people of South Carolina first. He has recognized the practical needs of families and businesses across this state. And I’d just like to invite everyone to join me in thanking Governor Henry McMaster for all of your efforts throughout the midst of this pandemic. (Applause.)
And I am grateful to be here as well with two leaders who have — who have just done yeoman’s work throughout this pandemic as well. They’re both members of the House of Representatives — one of whom I have the privilege of serving with during my years in the Congress, and another who simply has been a tremendous champion for the people of South Carolina.
It is remarkable to think — as we approach what we believe will be the beginning of what will ultimately end the coronavirus pandemic in America, with an imminent vaccine likely to be approved within days — that it’s been our partners in the Congress, Governor, as you know, that were there to recognize that we needed to make sure our healthcare workers had the supplies and the resources that they needed, that we — that we scaled testing across the country, that we developed the therapeutics as well as the vaccines.
But I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to Congressman Jeff Duncan and Congressman William Timmons for also providing the support for South Carolina’s families, who’ve endured great challenges in this time. The direct payments to families, the direct support for businesses has made it possible for the communities here in South Carolina and the families and businesses here to be able to endure this challenging time in the life of our nation with as little hardship as is possible.
So join me in thanking these two great congressmen for their strong leadership throughout this pandemic. (Applause.) William and Jeff, we are really grateful to you.
And as I said, it’s so good for me and Secretary Alex Azar, who you’ll hear from in a moment, to be here in South Carolina. It is rema- — amazing to think, from the first time that we spoke about the coronavirus pandemic in this country, 10 months have passed. And at the President’s direction and with your leadership here in South Carolina, we stood up the greatest national mobilization since World War Two. Two hundred million tests have been performed.
When I was tapped to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, we only had the capacity to perform some 10,000 coronavirus tests across this country. But I’m proud to report, as evidence of American innovation and the leadership that I described, we now do nearly 10 million coronavirus tests a day, giving us visibility on those that — that are susceptible to this pandemic and — and leaning into ensuring that those who are in harm’s way are protected.
We also stood up — as you know, Governor, working with you, we stood up an effort to make sure that personal protective equipment and supplies were available to our healthcare workers.
And I just — I want the people of South Carolina to know that while we gather here today to talk about Operation Warp Speed and what we believe will be the imminent approval of the first coronavirus vaccine for the American people in a matter of days, we recognize that we are — we’re going through a challenging time as we see cases rising in virtually every state in the country.
But I want the people of this state to know that America has never been better prepared to combat the coronavirus than we are today. And we’re going to continue to work around the clock to make sure that we have the testing, that our healthcare workers have the supplies, that we’re distributing the therapeutics and the medicines to give relief to those that are struggling with this pandemic, even while we hasten the day that we make a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine available for the American people.
As the Secretary will no doubt describe in just a few moments, we believe the FDA is doing their work very much in the public eye. And we anticipate, in a matter of days, the approval of the first coronavirus vaccine.
It’s amazing to think, though, Governor, as you know, about the speed with which Operation Warp Speed has moved. I was just speaking to one of the leaders here at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, who, I think, described the pace of the development of this vaccine as “mind-boggling.” And the truth is it is historic. It is nothing short of a medical miracle.
The truth is developing and manufacturing a vaccine can take up to 8 to 12 years. And we are literally on track — because of extraordinary leadership at every level, because of the support of these members of Congress, and because of American scientific innovation, we’re literally on track to have a safe and effective vaccine available for the American people between 8 and 12 months. That is unheard of, but it’s a testament to this President’s impatience as a leader, his willingness to say to everyone, “We’re going to do things safely, but we’re going to do them differently.”
I mean, it’s important for people to understand that we’ve cut no corners in the development of these vaccines; we have cut red tape, and we’ve done things on a dual track for the first time, Mr. Secretary, in the history of vaccine development in this country.
Literally, at the President’s direction, we literally purchased vaccines from companies before they were approved so that in the event that they became approved, we would have millions of doses. And we anticipate, before the end of this month, to actually have doses for more than 20 million Americans as a result.
In fact, as you’ll hear in some detail in a moment, we anticipate, because of the structure of Operation Warp Speed, Governor, that if there is an approval within the next several days, that we will be working with extraordinary private sector partners, like FedEx and UPS and McKesson. We will be shipping vaccine within 24 hours, and working with some great retail partners, like CVS and Walgreens, we’ll actually be administering those vaccines within 24 hours of that.
And I want to commend your health department and I want to commend all the partners here in the health community across South Carolina for making that possible.
So my message while I — I’m going to turn it over to our congressmen before the Secretary gives us an update on Operation Warp Speed and we hear from your team — my message to the people of South Carolina is: We’re living in a challenging time. We see cases rising, but you need to be assured we’ve never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today. And people deserve to know that we are just a few short days away from what, I believe, will be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic in America.
Literally, within a few short days, we believe, we will obtain the approval to begin to distribute and administer millions of doses of the vaccine, according to the plan here in South Carolina that your administration has approved, Governor, among those that are most vulnerable and those that are serving in our hospitals and clinics across this great state.
So, my last word of admonition I’ll save to the end. All of us still have a role to play to do our part to protect the health of our family, our community, our neighbors, and our friends, the people of this state and this nation.
But, for now, we’re here to focus on your plan for distribution. We look forward to hearing more details about the decisions that you’ve made, Governor McMaster, here in South Carolina. And again, I just want to end where I began in this conversation, and say, thank you, Governor Henry McMaster and your entire team here in South Carolina, for the extraordinary work that you’ve done putting the health of the people of South Carolina first. It has brought us to this day and I believe will hasten the day that we put the coronavirus in the past. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.
With that, let me recognize — let me recognize Congressman William Timmons and then Congressman Jeff Duncan for their remarks. And thank you, again, for being here, Congressmen.
(Roundtable discussion commences.)
(Roundtable discussion concludes.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Governor McMaster — thanks for your great leadership — and members of your team who are here, these two great congressmen. I know I speak on behalf of Secretary Azar, our entire team, and our President when I express appreciation and our ongoing commitment to partner with you until the day we put the coronavirus in the past.
We’ve been through a very challenging year in the life of this nation. And I’m truly grateful, Governor, for your leadership, for the tireless efforts of your team. I’m grateful to the healthcare workers on the frontlines. As Governor Duncan so eloquently said, we just appreciate the heroism that’s been demonstrated quietly each and every day in the hallways of our hospitals and clinics across the country. But we’re also just very grateful to the people of South Carolina for your cooperation over the course of the last 10 months.
And with Operation Warp Speed in full effect and with us just perhaps a few short days away from having the first safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, I’m proud to report to the people of South Carolina that hope is on the way. But we want to encourage each and every one of you to continue to do your part.
While we will, we anticipate, have some 20 million doses to administer to the most vulnerable and to our healthcare workers all across this country in the days ahead, with rising cases, rising hospitalizations, we just simply want to encourage everyone in this great state and all across the country to just continue to do your part.
We all know what to do to slow the spread, to flatten the curve, and to save lives. And we just encourage you to do that in every way possible. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing. As the Governor said, stay outside as much as you can. Keep those windows down. Wear a mask whenever you can’t social distance or whenever it’s otherwise recommended and indicated.
And I’m more confident than ever that we’re going to get through this. We’re going to get through this because of the extraordinary innovation of our research companies and scientists in this country; the extraordinary work of our healthcare workers; the dedication of people at every level across the federal government and here in your administration, across this state government; with the cooperation of the American people; and with God’s help. In this season of hope, I know that we’ll get through this, we’ll heal our land, and we’ll get through this together.
So, thank you all very much. Governor, thank you very much. And it’s an honor to be with you all.