Biden visits Pfizer facility in Portage, Michigan after postponing travel due to weather

Friday, February 19, 2021 - 5:52pm

President Joe Biden speaks at the Pfizer production facility in Portage, Mich.

President Joe Biden speaks at the Pfizer production facility in Portage, Mich. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Emma Ruberg

After threats of a snowstorm halted his travel plans Thursday, President Joe Biden visited the Pfizer production facility in Portage, Mich. to tour the manufacturing site of the COVID-19 vaccine and meet with workers who created and prepared the vaccine for distribution.

Pfizer is the co-creator, along with BioNTech, of one of the two COVID-19 vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in the United States. The Portage plant is the largest of the company’s three manufacturing sites and is where the company completes the COVID-19 vaccines, fills the vials and prepares them to be shipped. Since the vaccine’s approval, Pfizer has produced over 40 million doses for the U.S. government. 

The visit is the president’s second trip to the Midwest this week after a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, Wis., and is his first trip to Michigan since taking office. Biden was joined by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

At the Pfizer facility, the president toured the “Freezer Farm” where 350 ultra-cold freezers containing 360,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each are held. Company officials and employees explained the process for storing and distributing the vaccine as Biden toured the manufacturing plant. 

Biden opened his remarks at the plant by restating his commitment to developing and distributing the vaccine. He also thanked the plant’s workers, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Whitmer and Peters for their commitment to fighting the pandemic. 

“This administration is going to be guided by science to save lives and make lives better,” Biden said. “That’s why I wanted to come here … to thank all the workers out here in Kalamazoo.” 

Biden emphasized the importance of producing more vaccines and getting them distributed. He said the U.S. government is currently on track to have 120 million doses available by the end of March and 200 million doses by the end of May.

“I can’t give you a date when this crisis will end,” Biden said. “But I can tell you we’re doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later … Getting the vaccine and having it available is not the same as putting into someone’s arm. I believe we will be approaching normalcy by the end of the year. God willing, this Christmas will be different than the last. But I can’t make that commitment to you.”

Biden concluded his speech by urging Americans to receive the vaccine once it is available to them. 

"If there is one message to cut through everyone in this country, it's this,” Biden said. “The vaccines are safe ... Take the vaccine when it's your turn and available. That's how to beat this pandemic." 

In a press conference held over Zoom, Peters discussed Biden’s visit to the plant and said Biden was impressed by Pfizer’s work. Peters said he spoke with the president about how important it is to get a COVID-19 relief package passed through Congress. 

“I can tell you President Biden was incredibly impressed by what he saw and made a great effort to thank everyone who is rolling up their sleeves and doing what it takes to produce this vaccine,” Peters said. “It is important for us to do everything we can to push that production.”

In a press release Wednesday, Whitmer announced relief for nearly 6,000 small businesses across Michigan, with $52.5 million distributed as of this week. The funds are part of the Michigan COVID Recovery Plan, a comprehensive package that uses $90 million in federal funds for vaccine distribution and allocates $225 million for relief for small businesses and to bring more businesses to the state.

The visit is part of Biden’s continued commitment to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The trip also comes amid Biden’s call for a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package that boosts funding for vaccinations and includes $1,400 stimulus checks for those who qualify. 

LSA sophomore Andrew Schaeffler, former president of Students for Biden at the University of Michigan, spoke to The Daily about his excitement ahead of Biden’s visit to Michigan. 

“I’m so excited to see that President Biden is coming to Michigan and recognizing the great efforts of Michiganders and Pfizer,” Schaeffler said. “Joe Biden promised as a candidate to help build back better, and that starts with getting vaccines to people, which, under his leadership, has reached new heights and the administration is on track to break all of their goals. This tour, as well as his actions surrounding vaccines, underscore not just the difference in leadership between presidents, but the early success of his presidency.”

In a statement to The Daily, LSA sophomore Julia Schettenhelm, spokesperson for the University’s chapter of College Democrats, praised Biden for visiting the manufacturing plant. 

“We welcome President Biden to Michigan,” Schettenhelm wrote. “And thank him for his commitment to expanding vaccine availability to all Americans.”

The University’s chapter of College Republicans declined The Daily’s request for comment.

Daily Staff Reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at juforres@umich.edu.

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