US President Joe Biden speaks after visiting a mobile vaccination unit at the Green Road Community Center in  Raleigh, North Carolina on June 24, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) Joe Biden in North Carolina
US President Joe Biden speaks after visiting a mobile vaccination unit at the Green Road Community Center in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 24, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

New coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are down in North Carolina, but so is the number of new shots. 

President Joe Biden came to the Green Road Community Center in North Raleigh on Thursday to sing a common refrain: If we want to put this pandemic behind us, more people need to get fully vaccinated. 

But, the crowd of volunteers and medical personnel, who’d been going door-to-door to persuade their neighbors to do just that, were not the intended audience.

“I’m preaching to the choir, I know,” Biden said. 

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Biden was speaking to the 45% of adults in North Carolina who have not yet, for whatever the reason, gotten their vaccines.

And while the messaging in the early stages of the vaccine rollout rested mostly with national and state health officials, volunteers can now have the biggest effect, Biden said. 

“I wanted to come to Raleigh, thank everyone in this room for everything you’re doing to get your community vaccinated,” he said. “It matters. It matters. You’re saving lives. That’s not hyperbole.”

“Look at the progress you’ve made so far,” Biden said.

Both the US and NC are reporting the lowest caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths per day than since the start of the pandemic.

According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, there were only 394 new positive cases reported on Thursday. For contrast, there were 11,581 cases reported on Jan. 9.

Data via NC DHHS

But those are not the only numbers going down. The rate of vaccinations administered is down, too. The pool of people eager to get the vaccine is dwindling. 

That makes the persuasion campaign all the more important. Because as clear as the progress has been so far, it is not enough. Health experts say that 70% of eligible populations need to have the vaccine in order to quash the pandemic for good and protect the country from any resurgences from variants of the virus. 

And the threat is no longer theoretical. The Delta variant, which originated in India, is far more transmissible and is likely deadlier than the original strain. It is now the most common strain in the US and is causing cases’ numbers to rise among those without the vaccine.

And while two doses of the vaccine provide robust protection against Delta, one dose does not.

“The good news,” Biden said, “is we have a solution. The science is clear. The best way to protect yourself against the virus and its variants is to be fully vaccinated, it works. It’s free. It’s safe, it’s easy, it’s convenient.”

He added: “Folks, there’s no reason to leave yourself vulnerable to the deadly virus for one single day more.”

So, he challenged the volunteers, tell them your story. Listen to them. Implore them to think beyond themselves.

“Let people know [that] getting vaccinated is not only maybe going to save their lives. But save the mother or father or child or son or daughter, or co-worker.” 

“[Make] sure we do everything in our power to walk that extra mile to knock on that door to pick up the phone to actually pull up in your own vehicle or take someone who needs to get to a vaccination site, convince them, let them know why it’s so important.”

Because however good the numbers may look now, the biggest number can never be forgotten: the more than 600,000 people who have died from the virus in the US alone, more than all the Americans killed in “every major war in the 20th century in the 21st century,” Biden said.

Among other things, Biden mentioned:

  • Uber will continue to provide free rides to and from vaccine shots until July 4th. 
  • Some 1,400 pharmacies in NC are offering no appointment vaccine shots and many are open 24 hours a day. 
  • The US Department of Health and Human services has launched a website where volunteers can register to go into their communities and persuade their neighbors to get their vaccines. Those interested can visit wecandothis.dhhs.gov to sign up.

Biden thanked the crowd for their work and said that their volunteer efforts are what made him so confident in the future. 

“What’s happening in America is what America is all about,” Biden said. “That’s what the rest of the world is looking at: Are we what we advertise ourselves to be?” 

He added: “We’re gonna win this fight.”