Kamala Harris set to visit Detroit next week to promote COVID vaccinations

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — The White House confirmed Tuesday that Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Detroit next week as part of her national tour to urge more Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Harris will visit Michigan on Monday, her first trip to the state since Election Day, as part of the "We Can Do This” tour, which emphasizes the ease of getting the shot, encouraging vaccinations, and boosting vaccine education and outreach efforts, White House officials said.

The trip comes as the White House acknowledged Tuesday that it's likely to miss its goal of partially vaccinating at least 70% of U.S. adults by the Fourth of July.

Vice President Kamala Harris leans in for a photograph with Stella Quatrini, after Harris spoke about the child tax credit at Brookline Memorial Recreation Center, Monday June 21, 2021, in Pittsburgh.

Jeff Zients, who leads the White House COVID response team, said Tuesday that the country will probably hit 70% of vaccinations for Americans age 27 and older by July 4. 

"This is amazing progress and has our country returning to normal much sooner than anyone could have predicted," Zients said. 

"Where the country has more work to do is particularly with 18- to 26-year-oldsThe reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them, and they have been less eager to get the shot."

Zients warned that the very contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country and affecting younger people worldwide, so "it's very important that they get vaccinated."

This month, President Joe Biden announced a "month of action" to urge Americans to get vaccinated and reach the goal of 70% of U.S. adults getting at least one shot by the Fourth. 

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have met Biden's goal of 70% partially vaccinated, but Michigan is not among that group.

Michigan has vaccinated 61% of its adults over age 16 with at least one dose of vaccine through Tuesday, when it lifted statewide restrictions on gatherings and mask wearing. Fifty-one percent are fully vaccinated in Michigan.

Still, Michigan's Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun warned Tuesday that highly contagious variants are still circulating and urged those who haven't been vaccinated to continue to exercise caution.

"The pandemic has not ended," Khaldun said. "We have not yet achieved herd immunity."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in April announced her "MI Vacc to Normal" plan, which tied future COVID restrictions to the percentage of residents who received their first dose of the vaccine.

Whitmer reopened the state Tuesday, despite not reaching the initial goal of vaccinating at least 70%, or 5.7 million residents.

"At this point in time, our COVID numbers have plummeted," Whitmer said. "Our vaccination rates continue to climb, albeit a little slower than I'd like to see, but they are moving in the right direction."

Asked Tuesday about missing the 70% goal, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration doesn't see it as "something went wrong."

"How we see it is: We set a bold, ambitious goal — something the president has done from the very beginning — and we are expected to meet that goal just a couple of weeks after July 4th," Psaki said.

Harris' tour began last week with a trip to Greenville, South Carolina, and she continued the tour Friday with a visit to Atlanta.

In Georgia, where only 42% of adults have gotten at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine, Harris made stops at Ebenezer Baptist Church to tour a pop-up vaccination site and gave a speech to students at Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black university.

“When you get the vaccine for yourself that means that you will not possibly pass it on to somebody else in general because you’re unlikely to get COVID. Isn’t that an extension of 'love thy neighbor?'” she told a dozen or so people who had just gotten their vaccines at Ebenezer.

“We still have so many people who aren’t really saying ‘I don’t want to get it,’ but they’re just like trying to figure out how to make it work or ‘I’m not sure,'" Harris said, according to a pool report.

"So we’ve got to get the word out and one of the most important ways that we can get the word out is friend to friend. Family member to family member. Neighbor to neighbor. And that’s why I wanted to talk to you, to say please help us get the word out."

The White House said Harris' work to advance vaccine education has included efforts to ensure people have access to the vaccine and boosting confidence in the shot, including doing weekly local radio interviews in markets with measured high vaccine "hesitancy" rates and areas disproportionately affected by the virus.


Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.