President Biden on Wednesday declared that “this is not a pandemic” as he spoke about reopening the US after COVID-19 — but he also said that children under age 12 may have to wear masks in classrooms this fall unless they become eligible for vaccines “soon.”
Biden used a CNN town hall TV program in Ohio to call on unvaccinated Americans to take their shots to avoid a resurgence of the respiratory bug as the more contagious Delta version of the virus spreads in areas with lower vaccination rates.
TV footage showed Biden’s audience sitting close together without masks. But a member of the traveling White House press pool tweeted a photo of the venue from the rear, revealing that about half of the seats were left empty.
“There’s legitimate questions people can ask, that they worry about getting vaccinated. But the questions should be asked, answered and people should get vaccinated. But this is not a pandemic. We’ve made sure that since I got in office we’ve, we’ve inoculated over 160 million people,” Biden said.
He added there could be a “new pandemic” if the Delta variant is allowed to spread.
“What I say to people who are worried about a new pandemic is get vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated, even if you do catch the virus, quote, unquote… If you do, you’re not likely to get sick, you’re probably gonna be symptomless, you’re not going to be in a position where your life is in danger,” he said.
According to CDC data, 68.4 percent of US adults have had at least one vaccine shot. But there’s uneven rates of vaccination, causing recent surges in new infections in Missouri and other states.
Biden told CNN host Don Lemon that he will defer to government scientists to determine when children under 12 are allowed to take vaccines — so they can shed their masks in classrooms this fall.
Once vaccines are approved for kids, communities are going to have to ensure parents are being honest, Biden added.
“It’s going to get a little bit tight in terms of, well, are mom or dad being honest that, you know, Johnny did or did not get vaccinated?” Biden said.
“That’s going to raise questions. But I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to see this work out in ways that people are going to know in the community. Everybody knows in the community whether or not Johnny really did get the vaccination when he’s 15 or 17 years old. And so it’s going to I think it’s a matter of community responsibility.”
In the meantime, “the CDC is going to say that what you should do is, everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask and that’s probably what’s going to happen,” Biden said.
Biden said that he believes there will be vaccines approved for use on children “soon” and that he’s heard the FDA is preparing to give permanent authorization for the use of the three US-approved vaccines.
“My expectation, talking to the group of scientists — we put together over 20 of them — plus others in the field, is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, you’ll get a final approval saying the FDA said, ‘No, this is it. It’s good’,” Biden said.
“They’re doing examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now… when they’ve done all the science that needs to be done to determine [how to treat] children at ages three, four or five, six, seven and eight. They in fact are — all have different makeups, they’re developing. They’re trying to figure out whether or not there’s a vaccination with effect on one child with such and such an age and not another child. That’s underway.”