Joe Biden To Norah O’Donnell: It Will Be “Very Difficult” To Reach Herd Immunity Before The Summer

CBS News/Norah O'Donnell

CBS News aired another excerpt of Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Joe Biden as part of the network’s Super Bowl pre-game coverage, and the president was asked whether he could go to vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer and tell them that the country urgently needs more production.

“Yes. I think, because we’ve already done it,” Biden said. “But the idea that this can be done and we can get to herd immunity much before the end of next– this summer, is very difficult.”

Yet Biden acknowledged that the current rate of vaccinations had to be accelerated. O’Donnell noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that it will take getting 75% of Americans vaccinated to reach herd immunity. But at the current rate of the vaccine rollout, the U.S. would not reach that goal for almost another year.

“Can we wait that long?” O’Donnell said.

“No we can’t,” Biden said.

Biden blamed the Trump administration’s handling the pandemic and planning for the vaccine rollout, something that he said “was even more dire than we thought.”

“We thought they had indicated there was a lot more vaccine available,” Biden said. “And [that] didn’t turn out to be the case. So that’s why we’ve ramped up every way we can.”

CBS News has been airing excerpts of Biden’s sit down with O’Donnell throughout the weekend, continuing a tradition in which the network with the rights to each year’s Super Bowl lands an interview with the president. The first excerpts of the interview with Biden ran on CBS Evening News on Friday, and other portions were shown on CBS Weekend News and Face the Nation. The Super Bowl sit downs are a prime way for networks to showcase their top talent.

Biden also addressed the fraught issue of school reopenings, as O’Donnell noted that about 20 million children have not been in a classroom for nearly a year, with a mental health crisis and women dropping out of the workforce.

“Is this a national emergency?” O’Donnell asked Biden.

“It is a national emergency. It genuinely is a national emergency,” he said.

She then asked him whether it was time for schools to reopen.

“I think it’s time for schools to reopen safely. Safely,” Biden said. “You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked. Our CDC commissioner is gonna be coming out with science-based judgment, within I think as early as Wednesday as to lay out what the minimum requirements are.”

In an excerpt of the interview that aired on Saturday, Biden addressed U.S. relations with China, a topic of particular interest to the entertainment community. When Biden and Xi Jinping were each vice presidents of their countries in 2012, they reached a deal for China to loosen its restrictions on foreign film distribution in the country.

Biden told O’Donnell that he probably has spent more time with Xi “than any world leader.” But since he became president, Biden has not yet spoken to Xi.

“He’s very bright. He’s very tough. He doesn’t have– and I don’t mean it as a criticism, just the reality, he doesn’t have a democratic, small D, bone in his body,” Biden said. “The question is, I’ve said to him all along, that– we need not have a conflict. But there’s gonna be extreme competition. And I’m not going to do it the way that he knows. And that’s because he’s sending signals as well. I’m not gonna do it the way Trump did. We’re gonna focus on international rules of the road.”


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