The Second Gentleman of the United States, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, was in Burlington, Vermont on Wednesday. Douglas Emhoff is helping the Biden Administration spread the word about the importance of vaccinations against COVID-19 especially in underserved and minority communities.
Second Gentleman Emhoff is traveling to different states to discuss the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and outreach efforts to minority populations. His first stop in Vermont was the Community Health Centers of Burlington where Nepalese immigrant Bishnu Subedi was receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
Emhoff: "Is this your first shot?"
Emhoff: “These shots they work, they’re safe, they’re painless as you’re about to see and they’re going to save your own life and save the lives of others. How do you feel about having your vaccine?”
Subedi: “I want to be a part of ending this pandemic so I am getting vaccinated.”
After thanking Subedi and her nurse Emhoff joined Vermont leaders and clinic staff for a roundtable discussion on vaccination efforts in the state. Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray shared data showing Vermont has the second oldest population in the country and a shrinking rural population. She said health care providers, including those providing vaccines, must go out to that population. “I don’t think we can talk about equity in public health without talking about broadband.”
Emhoff: “We’ve been talking about broadband all over the country and especially the relationship between broadband, rural communities and health. We’re relying more on telehealth and internet health. So couldn’t agree more.”
During the roundtable Emhoff talked with Community Health Centers of Burlington Chief Medical Officer Dr. Heather Stein about how they approached skepticism over COVID-19 vaccines.
Emhoff: “We are so confident in these vaccines. They work. The efficacy is incredible. So we should be talking about confidence not hesitancy. How are you all dealing with this issue?”
Stein: “The power that we have in primary care is relationships. We know that in many cases this is not going to be one conversation with people.”
Six percent of Vermont residents identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color. BIPOC and New American residents are also among those least likely to get vaccinated. After the roundtable Emhoff stopped by One Community Center where the Association of Africans Living in Vermont is based. Originally founded to serve the African immigrant community it now services all immigrants in the area. Its current focus is helping to coordinate vaccine distribution. Emhoff was greeted by Irene Webster, who wrote a song in Swahili that encourages New American residents to get vaccinated.
“I did this song because of frustration really," Webster said. "The hesitancy in our community, the fear, the misinformation. So I decided to write this song because you know they’re familiar with my face. Every week I’m disseminating information from the public health officials. So that when they see that their leaders that they trust also partaking of the vaccine that maybe perhaps they’ll be persuaded and see that it’s something safe to do.”
Emhoff: “Is it working?”
Webster: “It is working. Now numbers are growing.”
Emhoff is traveling across the country to promote the vaccine and reiterated that message before he left.
“Get the vaccines," he said. "Now there’re open to everybody. We will make sure that there’s enough supply. And we are close but we are not there and you kind of see some of the numbers spiking up around the country where folks are letting their guard down a little bit. This is not the time to let your guard down.”
Vice President Harris is expected to visit New Hampshire on Friday.
Audio from Emhoff’s Vermont visit is courtesy of pool coverage from WCAX television.