WASHINGTON, DC— Congressman Andy Kim’s latest town hall was focused on what is on many people’s minds right now: COVID vaccines, and how and when to get them.
Calling the vaccines “critical on how we move forward as people, as families, as community, as a state and as a nation,” Kim was joined at Tuesday's telephone town hall by Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, the Medical Advisor to the New Jersey Commissioner of Health on the COVID-19 response.
Kim and Dr. Bresnitz provided updates on New Jersey’s efforts to quickly distribute the vaccines, which Kim told constituents he has full trust in. “They have my trust and they deserve yours as well,” he said, noting that he will “gladly” receive a vaccine when his turn comes.
Kim also recognized the work of the science community to create a vaccine in such a short time frame. “We’ve seen nothing short of a miracle… I know how much hard work goes into this, and I want to applaud scientists and medical experts that helped bring this vaccine to life less than a year after we had the virus come into this country.”
Recognizing the skepticism that some members of the public have over the vaccine, Kim said the work was done with “incredible rigor and a lot of precision,” and assured constituents that “no corners were cut” when it came to its development.
Kim had some critical words for the federal government in terms of its roll out of the vaccine. Saying that the lack of a strong-enough level of focus and attention on its strategy has led to a slow release of the vaccine, he said the federal government “should be doing better and we will be doing better.”
“Right now, I am doing everything I can to get more vaccine doses to New Jersey,” Kim said.
Dr. Bresnitz updated constituents on the latest state and county numbers, noting that although almost 600,000 COVID cases have been diagnosed in New Jersey since the first case in March, the number is probably even higher because of asymptomatic patients and the lack of testing immediately available at the start of the pandemic. In Burlington County, there have been about 27,000 positive cases with just over 600 deaths.
Calling the vaccine development “an incredible private-public partnership,” Dr. Bresnitz also joined Kim in reassuring the public that both available vaccines—Pfizer and Moderna—are safe and effective.
Saying that the efficacy rate at 95 percent is “really tremendous,” the Doctor advised the public to get the vaccine despite some of the side effects that may come with it, including headache, fatigue and sore muscles. “It’s nothing like getting the disease, the morbidity to the disease or the risk of death, especially in older populations,” he said.
Both Kim and Dr. Bresnitz stressed to the public the importance of following through with the second dose of the vaccine, currently three weeks apart with the Pfizer dose and four weeks apart with the Moderna dose, as well as the continued need to take safety precautions, even after vaccinations.
“People will have to continue to do all the things—masks, physical distancing, not being in crowds, washing hands, etc. That will be true for everyone vaccinated,” said Dr. Bresnitz.
“This is how we move forward; this is how we turn the corner,” Kim said. “In the meantime, please continue to be cautious. Take proper precautions, please continue to wear a mask, to social distance, to be careful. It’s so dangerous,” he said, noting that New Jersey is currently seeing the surge in numbers brought on from the holidays and the winter season.
“This is tough. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but please let us finish this through.”
The vaccine was not the only thing on Kim’s and his constituents’ minds. It would be nearly impossible to hold a town hall without the topic of January 6’s Capitol riots being addressed.
Briefly touching on last week’s events, Kim said that “we have to do everything we can to protect our democracy. Our democracy is bigger than all of us, this Capitol Building is bigger than all of us.” Calling for criminal actions to be taken against the rioters, Kim said that the need is great to hold people accountable “to make sure this is a clear message that this shouldn’t have happened and should never happen again.”
When asked by a constituent if he would recommend New Jerseyans traveling to Washington, D.C. for President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration, Kim advised against it.
“I am not bringing my family down, I do not want to take that risk,” Kim said. “There are clear and present dangers and threats against the Capitol and inauguration efforts. Based on what I’ve heard, I would discourage you or urge you to be extra, extra careful.”
“After my vote today, I will go home and explain to my two boys why it was important to impeach the president. It’s a conversation that parents across the country are having right now with their kids; explaining that when someone does something wrong and they violate their oath, there are consequences," said Kim. "It’s a conversation that reminds them that nobody, not even the President of the United States, is above the law. And it’s a conversation that reminds them that our country – the same one that gave their grandparents and parents a chance at a good life – is something worth protecting."