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DeWine Is 1 Of 6 Governors To Meet With Biden About Vaccination Rate

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn now to Mike DeWine. He is the Republican governor of Ohio. And he's one of six governors meeting with President Biden today, virtually, to talk about ways to get more people vaccinated. Governor, thanks for being on.

MIKE DEWINE: Good to be on. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: So this is all good news about the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12 to 15. Is your state ready to start vaccinating them?

DEWINE: Oh, we're anxious. We're ready to go. I'm very excited about it. You know, we'll go this week. I've already announced it. Just as soon as we get the final approval, we'll authorizer it throughout Ohio. And, you know, I think there's some real appetite, certainly, among some parents to get the vaccine. I'm looking at my daily chart I get. And for those 16 and 17 that we've already been able to vaccinate - but, of course, where the parents had to give permission - we're about 25% already have been vaccinated. So - you know, not everybody is going to get it, but - for all the reasons that you all just detailed on NPR. There's real good reason for parents to want this vaccine.

MARTIN: Although, on the whole, your state has had some challenges. I mean, vaccine supply is outstripping demand there. The Cincinnati Enquirer has reported Ohio was ordering only 20% of its allocated vaccines this week. Is that right?

DEWINE: Oh, yeah. I think it's nationwide. It certainly has been in Ohio. We saw it. We saw it coming. We knew we would hit a point in time when that would happen. I think it was accelerated a little bit or maybe more than a little bit by the Johnson & Johnson announcement when that was pulled off the market. So - you know, yes, it's - we're into a slog now, frankly. I mean, we've vaccinated first dose. If you look at all our population in Ohio, we're getting close to 42%. But it's not...

MARTIN: So what do you do about it?

DEWINE: Well (laughter), that's the question I think every governor is facing, certainly something we're going to talk to the president about today. I mean, we all have different ways of doing it. The most important thing I think we do is just make it available. We - when we started this, you know, we were in over 600 locations. We now have 1,900 locations. We're going into communities. We've opened it up for people who do not have an appointment. They can just literally walk up. I was in a clinic the other day in Cincinnati, a mobile clinic. And, you know, they were getting walk-ups there. But it's taking it into neighborhoods. You know, we've focused a lot, particularly early on, on our older Ohioans. We're going into, you know, high-rise senior centers...

MARTIN: Yeah.

DEWINE: ...Where we're vaccinating right in the lobby. So there's nothing magical about this.

MARTIN: Right.

DEWINE: And, you know, we just...

MARTIN: But what do you do about people's psychological response to it? I mean, it's one thing to make it more accessible. I hear that you're pushing that. But how do people feel about it? A Kaiser Family Foundation survey from last month said nearly three in 10 Republicans say they don't want a vaccine. The share is greater among rural Republican men, 35% of whom don't want to get a vaccine. Are you satisfied with the way that your party leaders are talking about the vaccine?

DEWINE: Well, I don't look at this as a party issue. You know, the data is what it is. We have some people who don't want it. We don't really worry about those people who are adamant and say they don't want it. Those are not persuadable people. The people that we can get, and I'm seeing this - and my wife, Fran, and I have been out, I think, to 37, 38 different vaccination sites. And it's fascinating to talk to people who are getting vaccinated.

And, you know, you run into people who have held back, but they're there. Many times they're there because their spouse has asked them to go. Many times they're there - the other day, down in Cincinnati, when I was at this vaccination site, I think we ran into two people. The sons had brought the fathers in. So your family members are very influential and, you know, your personal doctor, more than a national doctor, more than somebody you see on TV. It's the personal doctor. So we're, you know, really putting a lot of emphasis now getting this vaccine out to primary care physicians, pediatricians as well.

MARTIN: Got you. Governor, in the moments we have remaining, I want to shift gears. And I want to ask you about how you see your party's leadership right now. The House of Representatives will vote tomorrow on whether to remove Liz Cheney from her position as conference chair. They're voting on this because Cheney told the truth about the outcome of the 2020 election. You also recognized Joe Biden after he won the election. Many of your colleagues in the party did not. If Cheney is removed, what do you think it says about the future of your party?

DEWINE: Look; let me be blunt. I'm focused every single day in Ohio about saving lives and getting Ohio moving forward. And, you know, I watch the news just like everybody else does. My responsibility as governor of the state is to lead this state. And to do it - we've done it in a nonpolitical way. We've done it in a way where we've focused on the science. That's really what I'm focused on every single day. I'll go back to what one of my mentors, George Voinovich, said when I was his lieutenant governor. He always used to tell me, Mike, he says, if we govern well, we do what we should do. The politics will take care of itself.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. We appreciate your time, sir.

DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.