ATLANTA — Vice President Kamala Harris came to Atlanta Friday to push the Biden administration’s goal of getting 70% of all Americans vaccinated by July 4.
Harris spent the day visiting a vaccination site, meeting with the head of the CDC and also speaking with students at Clark Atlanta University.
That’s where Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke exclusively with the vice president as she tries to convince Georgians the vaccine is safe, free and easy to get.
Elliot last spoke with Harris in January when the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging.
“So we last talked and we were all masked up the last time I was here in Atlanta. I think what has changed is, one, just the people are getting the vaccine, people are getting vaccinated,” Harris said.
[SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Vaccine in Georgia]
The Biden administration has to overcome remaining vaccine hesitancy especially in rural communities, and especially across the southeast. The pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped significantly from a high of nearly 2 million per day about two months ago, jeopardizing Biden’s ability to hit the 70% mark.
The vice president told Elliot that’s why she’s traveling across the country to get the word out that the vaccine is safe and more readily available than ever before.
“I think people realize that we each have the power to end this if we get vaccinated, and it will save our lives and will save the life of our community by extension,” Harris said.
Thursday, Elliot spoke with Gov. Brian Kemp, who blamed some of the hesitancy on the federal government’s decision to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A pause that has since been lifted.
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“The decision to pause that vaccination, while I know a tough one, definitely dampened the demand for Johnson & Johnson,” Kemp said.
The vice president brushed off criticism of the administration’s response, pointing instead to rapidly improving numbers across the country and saying she wants to make those numbers even better.
“The vaccine saves your life regardless of who you voted for, whether you live in a blue state area, red state area, urban, suburban. It will save a life.”
The event at Clark Atlanta was just one of several stops Harris made throughout the day.
Channel 2 Action News was the only local TV station on the tarmac as Air Force 2 touched down at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Friday morning.
Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Rep. Nikema Williams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms were also there as Harris arrived.
“It’s good to be back in Atlanta,” she told our camera as she made her way to the her motorcade. The first stop was Ebenezer Baptist Church.
While there, Harris made the reason for her visit clear: to encourage more Georgians to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Harris applauded as a man received the vaccine at the church’s vaccine pop up site.
Along with Georgia’s elected officials, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky also joined Harris for a tour.
The vice president encouraged people hesitant to get the vaccine to overcome their fears.
“Some people say, ‘Well, I don’t like needles.’ Who really likes needles? I don’t know if that’s a reason. When I got my shot, I looked the other way. I don’t want to look at that needle,” Harris said.
After that, the motorcade made the short trip to Clark Atlanta University, where Harris told students the vaccine puts power in their hands.
“Students, remember you are powerful. And I’m here to tell you that we together have the power to end this pandemic,” Harris said.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 41% of adults in Georgia have at least one dose of the vaccine. Thirty five percent of adults are fully vaccinated in the state.
The Biden administration insists that even if the 70% vaccination goal is unmet, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.
Biden wants to celebrate Independence Day as a “summer of freedom” from the virus.
Earlier this week, the White House announced plans to host first responders, essential workers and service members and their families on the South Lawn for a cookout and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall.
More than 1,000 guests are expected for what will be one of the largest events of Biden’s presidency.
Channel 2′s Richard Elliot, Justin Wilfon and The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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