Colorado Democratic Governor Jared Polis said on Sunday that President Joe Biden needed to change the way that he talks about vaccines and that the definition of “fully-vaccinated” is likely to be changed in the near future.
“I think it’s really important that our leaders, whether they’re governors or mayors, local influencers, lead with facts rather than fear,” Polis told NBC News host Chuck Todd. “People just don’t react well to this ongoing environment of fear for two years. Let’s lead with the facts. Look, the science-driven information people need to keep themselves safe with the individual freedom and local control that we deserve. That’s where we are at this point. We know how to stop this thing. The – getting three doses of the vaccine is highly effective, and all but negates any risk that you face.”
When asked by Todd if there is going to be a change in “the definition of fully-vaccinated in your state,” Polis responded, “That’s certainly where it’s headed.”
“It looks like from everything that we know that to significantly reduce the risk of the Omicron variant, three doses of the vaccine are needed,” Polis claimed. “It’s three doses of that vaccine to be effective. So, I wish they’d stop talking about it as a booster. It really is a three-dose vaccine, and every piece of data that we’re seeing shows that that’s the case.”
When asked about what he would say to Biden if the president asked him for his advice, Polis responded, “I would say, ‘Stop talking about the vaccine as a booster; talk about it as three doses that are needed for effective prevention.’”
“People who’ve gotten those three doses in our Colorado data, which is similar to the national data, are 47 times less likely to die than people that are unvaccinated,” he continued. “It essentially negates the risk. Nothing is risk-free in life, Chuck, but you can go about, if you’re boosted, you can feel very confident that if you get COVID, it’ll be a minor case. I’d also say we need to focus on prices, increases in prices and cost that people across the country are facing. People are frustrated their Thanksgiving turkey cost 50% more, gas is $3.80 a gallon. Let’s show some relief. In Colorado, it’s cutting vehicle registration fees, it’s making it free to start a business. We’re trying to – we’ve cut taxes twice. So these kinds of things that show that we’re doing what we can to make sure that families can get by and thrive.”
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. There is no question we’ve been whipsawed by COVID news. Good news, tens of millions are vaccinated. Bad news, Omicron means a third shot is even more essential. Good news, Omicron appears to cause less severe disease. Bad news, out of the U.K., maybe not. The science is not as clear. That makes the job of promoting public health that much harder for elected officials, particularly on the state and local level. Colorado’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis, was asked just over a week ago why he opposed a mandatory mask mandate in his state.
GOV. JARED POLIS: The emergency is over. You know, public health doesn’t get to tell people what to wear. It’s just not their job. You don’t tell people to wear a jacket when they go out in the winter and force them to. If they get frostbite, it’s their own darn fault.
CHUCK TODD: And Governor Polis joins me now. Governor, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.
GOV. JARED POLIS: Always a pleasure, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD: Look, a lot has changed since you made those comments on the issue of Omicron, literally in the last 72 hours. And I know you’ve clarified when it means emergency, meaning state action on the emergency. Given everything you’ve heard from Dr. Fauci, everything you’ve seen, are you having any second thoughts about the state intervening here temporarily, whether it’s a mask mandate or something else?
GOV. JARED POLIS: You know, Chuck, we’re two years into this thing. And I think it’s really important that our leaders, whether they’re governors or mayors, local influencers, lead with facts rather than fear. People just don’t react well to this ongoing environment of fear for two years. Let’s lead with the facts. Look, the science-driven information people need to keep themselves safe with the individual freedom and local control that we deserve. That’s where we are at this point. We know how to stop this thing. The – getting three doses of the vaccine is highly effective, and all but negates any risk that you face. So, we just need to make sure that people go out and do it.
CHUCK TODD: Are you going to change the definition of fully-vaccinated in your state? I know you have had – there’s some specific entities that you want to see have vaccinated. Based on what you’ve heard, are you going to change those definitions?
GOV. JARED POLIS: That’s certainly where it’s headed, Chuck. It looks like, from everything that we know, that to significantly reduce the risk of the Omicron variant, three doses of the vaccine are needed. And by the way, Chuck, this is normal with many other vaccines. I have young kids, they have the DTaP vaccine. Every kid gets it: diphtheria, tetanus. It’s three doses of that vaccine to be effective. So, I wish they’d stop talking about it as a booster, Chuck. It really is a three-dose vaccine, and every piece of data that we’re seeing shows that that’s the case.
CHUCK TODD: How about your testing capacity? All over the East Coast, particularly in the Northeast over the last 48 hours, there’s been a run on the at-home tests, can’t find enough of them. By the way, they’re a little pricey. Considering, if this is something that essential, should they be priced as high as they are? And we’ve seen fewer public places to get tested. Do you need more resources on that? What’s the situation in Colorado?
GOV. JARED POLIS: We’ve made free at-home testing available to every Coloradan for months now. So we’ve sent out over 1.2 million, just right to your doorstep. You get the free test, the same kind that in other states people have to buy. It’s a popular program. We’re certainly planning on continuing it for the time being. It’s also important to note that while the Northeast is going up now in cases, our region in the Rocky Mountain West has actually been going down for several weeks. We peaked in October, early November. We have a lot less hospitalizations than we did a few weeks ago. Now, that could change on a dime, we know, with the Omicron variant. But we’re in a better place now than we were a month ago, and absolutely the free at-home tests have been part of that. They’ve been very popular with the people of Colorado.
CHUCK TODD: If President Biden calls you up tomorrow and says, “What do you want to hear from me on Tuesday night? What’s important? What helps you do your job in help – in getting things better in Colorado?” What would you tell the president?
GOV. JARED POLIS: I would say, “Stop talking about the vaccine as a booster; [talk] about it as three doses that are needed for effective prevention.” People who’ve gotten those three doses in our Colorado data, which is similar to the national data, are 47 times less likely to die than people that are unvaccinated. It essentially negates the risk. Nothing is risk-free in life, Chuck, but you can go about, if you’re boosted, you can feel very confident that if you get COVID, it’ll be a minor case. I’d also say, we need to focus on prices, increases in prices and costs that people across the country are facing. People are frustrated their Thanksgiving turkey cost 50% more, gas is $3.80 a gallon. Let’s show some relief. In Colorado, it’s cutting vehicle registration fees, it’s making it free to start a business. We’re trying to – we’ve cut taxes twice. So, these kinds of things that show that we’re doing what we can to make sure that families can get by and thrive.
CHUCK TODD: It’s interesting you bring up the inflation issue. It feels like the rise of Omicron is only going to set us back on that, since this has been – the supply chain seems to be the biggest impediment when it comes to the inflation issue. You’ve talked about some things you’ve done. Is there anything outside what the Federal Reserve does that can impact inflation in your mind?
GOV. JARED POLIS: You know what public policymakers can do, governors, legislators, presidents, Congress? We can save people money, right? So, if you save people money on child care, that makes a real difference in people being able to work, which we need now, and also in the development of the child. If you can save people money on vehicle registration fees, on taxes, wherever you can save people money. The child tax credit is another excellent example for folks. So yes, we can do something. I mean, I’m not an expert in the Fed and macroeconomic policy, and most people aren’t. But we can do very concrete things that actually reduce the costs for Americans.
CHUCK TODD: Let me go back to the issue of the unvaccinated. And I know you had said, “Hey, you can’t make somebody wear a coat.” But frostbite isn’t contagious, right? This virus is. Do you have any other new ideas in your head of how you deal with the unvaccinated here? Should there be a penalty? I mean, it does seem as if there is more attention being paid to protect the unvaccinated than there is to reward those who have played by the rules.
GOV. JARED POLIS: Well, I think we want to address the unvaccinated with facts first and foremost, also with compassion and love. They are often victims of misinformation, and we need to do our best to get the very best information in front of them that they need to protect themselves and their family. We’ve also made monoclonal antibody treatment available widely in Colorado for free. Anybody who needs it, we have 10 mobile buses that do it. The one thing we always point out, though, while it can reduce your hospitalization risk by 70%, that’s from the Delta variant, by the way. The monoclonal antibody treatment is not as effective –
CHUCK TODD: Right –
GOV. JARED POLIS: – against the Omicron variant. The data is still pending. It’s still not nearly as effective as getting the three-dose vaccine, which all but zeroes out your risk of dying or getting severely ill from the virus. Again, a few people get severely ill from anything. It’s certainly still possible. But essentially you have a very, very low risk if you get fully-vaccinated.
CHUCK TODD: One quick political question. Senator Joe Manchin had indicated this morning that he is not going to support Build Back Better. Done. He’s done with it. What is your advice to Senate Democrats? Is there anything you think they have to get done next year before the November 2022 elections, of which you’ll be running for reelection?
GOV. JARED POLIS: Yeah, really deliver on saving people money and reducing costs. And that might mean preschool and child care. It might mean the child tax credit, other tax reductions or payroll tax reductions. It might mean saving people money on a variety of things that affect their everyday lives. Of course, as somebody who also looks at the data and science on climate change, I’d love to see the Senate go big and tackle climate change. That would really help states like Colorado and others that are taking this seriously, because we have several climate-dependent industries. Agriculture, the ski industry. And yes, our ski season is open, Chuck, but we don’t have the normal snow that we have. And that’s really the situation across the West in a statewide drought. So we’d love to see Congress step up and take action on those issues.
CHUCK TODD: I hear you, but it sounds like if they have to pick a priority, you would prioritize the economy over the climate provisions, if that’s the only political feasible route to go?
GOV. JARED POLIS: You know, those are not mutually exclusive. I think our climate destiny is our economic destiny. But certainly, showing relief for families on costs: preschool, child care does that, other things that can reduce costs, save money. That’s certainly a big part of our focus here in Colorado. And we welcome any help from the United States Congress.
CHUCK TODD: Governor Jared Polis, Democrat of Colorado. Appreciate you coming on and sharing your views. I hope you get to enjoy the holiday season. We’re all hoping that COVID doesn’t become as disruptive as it was last year.