GRAND RAPIDS — Jill Biden visited Grand Rapids Community College Thursday as part of the Biden administration’s push to partner with community colleges to get students vaccinated against COVID-19.
The first lady toured a vaccination clinic set up in the parking lot of GRCC’s campus near downtown Grand Rapids as several students and community members received the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine. Biden also visited Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Mo. as part of the president’s initiative to launch partnerships between federal retail pharmacy partners and community colleges to provide on-site vaccination clinics that are open to the public.
Biden feels “most at home” when she is visiting community colleges, she told a group of reporters on Thursday.
“They aren’t just places of learning, they meet people where they are,” Biden said. “Community colleges serve and strengthen our communities in many ways, as we’re seeing here today with this effort.”
She urged anyone who is hesitant about getting the vaccine to talk to their health care providers. Biden said she is confident that the country will reach the president’s vaccination goal of 70 percent of adult Americans getting at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
“The vaccine is safe and effective, and it saves lives. …Vaccines are the best way for all of us to get back to the sporting events and the weddings and the concerts that we all miss so much,” Biden said.
Republican Congressman Pete Meijer also visited the vaccination clinic on Thursday, saying the messaging about the vaccine needs to be clearer.
“We really need to be focusing on communicating actual risks and being honest,” Meijer said. “There are some side effects. I had a sore shoulder and I felt a mild hangover after my second shot, and that’s pretty common. But compared to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their lives from COVID-19, and in order to reopen and get to a point where we get society back again, at that point the tradeoff just becomes incredibly evident that the vaccine is worth it.”
It’s important that the Biden administration has a strong background and connection to community colleges because they will be beneficial in meeting communities where they are in getting the vaccine, as well as assisting people professionally to get through the pandemic, said GRCC President Bill Pink.
“Community colleges are the answer to efforts like this, and our constituency and who we reach across the country, so it makes sense for community colleges to be one of the main catalysts to get this done,” Pink told reporters on Thursday. “I also believe that community colleges will be very key to getting us up as a country out of this pandemic, to get folks back to work, and to get folks back to higher education.”