With help from Rishika Dugyala and Teresa Wiltz

What up Recast family! President Biden heads to Baltimore to sell his Build Back Better agenda. Eric Adams — the presumptive next mayor of New York — debates his Republican challenger (who donned a red beret). But today, we focus on the administration’s rollout for vaccinating young kids.

There’s been a flurry of news this week on the Covid vaccine front.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the greenlight Thursday for booster jabs for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for eligible adults. With all three vaccines available in the U.S. for boosters, the CDC also gave the nod to adults who want to to “mix and match” brands with their third dose.

For many parents — like me — the news that vaccines for younger kids may be rolled out soon was especially welcome.

On Friday, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective for kids ages 5 to 11. The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee will vote Tuesday on whether to recommend the vaccine for kids; the agency is expected to authorize the shot shortly after.

Already, the White House has unveiled its plans for a vaccine rollout aimed at getting shots in arms of some 28 million eligible American kids. The administration also began shipping child-size doses to doctors in anticipation of their approval from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.

The administration says equity in the distribution of the kiddie vaccines is a priority. So I got Dr. Cameron Webb, the White House Senior Adviser for Equity on the COVID-19 Response, on the horn. Like me, he’s got two young kids currently not eligible for the vaccine.

We chop it up about the administration’s plans to reach vaccine hesitant parents; his plans for vaccinating his own children — and what he learned from his unsuccessful run for Congress in 2020.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

THE RECAST: I don’t have to tell you, both Covid testing and access to the vaccine have not been equitable endeavors. So as we’re talking about this vaccine for kids for ages 5 to 11, what lessons did the administration learn from the early distribution of the vaccine for adults?

WEBB: First of all, I want to go back for a second because when you think about the nature of structural inequality in our society, when you build any program on top of that inequitable structure, it’s that much harder to achieve equity. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

If you look at a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll it’s showing 73 percent of Latino adults are vaccinated [with at least one shot], 71 percent of white adults, 70 percent of Black adults.

[Editor’s note: The KFF survey, which tracks attitudes and experiences with Covid vaccinations, found an uptick in vaccinations among communities of color from July to September of this year.]

That’s far more equitable than I think anybody would have imagined for the vaccination effort. And I think that narrative isn’t out there, nearly enough. The truth of the matter is that it is a direct result of communities coming together, of local trusted messengers, getting the word out through local media, through one-on-one conversations through community-based organizations.

I would say, on the vaccination front, we’ve made tremendous progress on the equity front. And I think that we’re going to continue that progress when it comes to pediatric vaccinations because there’s already going to be some inequity in childhood vaccinations as it is.

By over-communicating, really getting out there and talking to as many people as possible, making sure they’re hearing it from folks that they know and trust, making sure that you’re being honest about what we know and what we don’t know, in terms of the science — and making sure that above all else, if and when people get to yes, that we’ve removed the barriers to access to these vaccines.

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THE RECAST: I guess my biggest question is like, how do you get to yes?

This is just two brothas talking here. I’m sure in conversations that you’ve had, maybe not in your official capacity, but with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, folks say: ‘Yeah, the government says it’s safe, but I’m still not getting vaccinated.’

So if these same adults also have children, it seems like an even higher hurdle to clear.

WEBB: The first thing is stop trying to convince people, right?

I think that’s where a lot of these conversations go wrong.

And I say this wearing my hat as a practicing physician. I provide people with information. I combat misinformation. And I think that there’s an overwhelming weight of the evidence that’s led 79 percent of adults in this country to get vaccinated [with at least one dose, according to the CDC].

That’s purely because there’s an overwhelming weight of the evidence that suggests that vaccines are safe.

You contrast it with how this Delta variant makes up 99.9 percent of the Covid that we see in communities … and people started to see their unvaccinated family members, neighbors, co-workers and friends get sick, hospitalized, and some even die from Covid, that [gave] a lot of folks a reason to revisit this conversation and seek new and better information.

That starts with just being a resource to people. And then that’s not necessarily the advice that I would give to folks in politics, or folks from Washington speaking to the bully pulpit of D.C., but rather at the very local level. Those are the conversations that actually move people. It’s not the megaphone from the highest spaces in politics. It’s the microphones in churches, community organizations and at community events. That’s what moves people, people that they trust, giving them information they can trust.

THE RECAST: Don’t you think it’s a tougher sell when you’re trying to convince folks to get their children a vaccine that is not even available as we’re speaking right now?

WEBB: I would flip that. I’m a parent. I have a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old. And if you ask me what my responsibility to my kids is, it’s to be a good consumer of information so that I can act in their best interest.

That’s literally my role as a parent.

The weight of the evidence, after the FDA considers it, is that children should be vaccinated to protect them and allow them to stay in school and to allow them to avoid either getting sick themselves or getting other folks in the community sick.

My wife and I, we’re going to be good stewards, we’re going to be good caregivers to our children, and make sure they get vaccinated. I think parents make those decisions based on their kids’ best interests.

The question you’re asking really comes down to: What’s the science going to tell us? The science is unequivocal.

THE RECAST: But still, the idea of getting vaccinated remains a political one, right? In blue states like California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Covid vaccines will be part of the state immunization list for students. Red state governors like in Texas and Florida say they aren’t doing that. How do you balance that with equity, particularly for school-aged kids?

WEBB: I’m going to take the position and look at this from the vantage point of the virus, which does not care if you’re [in] a red state or blue state. It just cares if you’re somebody it can infect.

I already told you, over 79 percent of adults in this country are vaccinated [with at least one dose]. There’s not 79 percent of this country that agrees on anything. So I think sometimes you want to look at it from the other perspective and say, this has gotten more consensus than almost any issue in recent American history.

THE RECAST: You ran for Congress last year in Virginia and came up short in your bid. Is there anything you learned on the campaign trail that is applicable to this job, where you’re trying to sell the administration’s stance on vaccines?

WEBB: I don’t sell vaccines, so I reject the premise.

But what I say is what I’m selling is a really holistic approach to ending a pandemic, which includes testing, which includes mitigation measures, which includes information sharing, and which includes, yes, vaccines. And when you put those all together, I really want to do everything I can to keep our community safe.

It’s less that this is informed by my experience politically, more that my political experience was informed by my time as a physician. You know, walking into rooms, asking people where it hurts, what’s bothering them, listening for an answer, and then working with them to find solutions. That’s what informed my political endeavors and that’s what continues to inform me in the policy space.

THE RECAST: Just to be clear by selling vaccines, I was talking about selling the idea of getting the vaccines. I wasn’t suggesting you were hawking vaccines.

WEBB: No, I get you, but it’s a really important distinction to make, especially in communities of color.

If you show up saying like, ‘Hey, I’m here to get you vaccinated’ … you’re not giving somebody that chance to hear you with open ears. So you really have to walk into spaces and say, ‘I want to talk to you about the things that can keep you safe, they can keep you healthy, and tell you why vaccination was an important part of keeping myself safe, my family safe. And you can talk to me about if you have any concerns and what those are.’

People don’t want to see your agenda up front, they want to know that you’re here to listen to them too.

THE RECAST: Olivia Rodrigo came to the White House to sell this idea of getting vaccinated for young people 12 years old and up. Are there similar plans to have like Sesame Street or something like that catering to children 5 to 11 to get them talking about the vaccines with their parents? Any sort of marketing push on that front?

WEBB: That’s a pretty cool idea. Are you looking for a new job? We’re always looking for creative and innovative ways to reach folks. And we’ll make sure we do that with getting the word out about pediatric vaccines.


Sunny Day/Sweepin’ the clouds away … sorry that theme is stuck in my head. Now it can be in yours too! Anyhoo, congrats on making it through the workweek. Here are your Weekend To-Dos.

We want to alert you to some stellar reporting from POLITICO’s Marc Caputo. It’s a deep dive on a Miami police captain Javier Ortiz who’s racked up a laundry list of complaints. He’s been accused of bullying, beatings and has a history of disseminating racially inflammatory social posts. He’s also earned a reputation as “Miami’s least-fireable man with a badge,” Caputo writes. An excerpt of the story:

Passing — not in sports — but as a POC who looks white, is the subject of a couple of pieces that caught our eye this week. One looks at the Rebecca Hall film adaptation of the novel “Passing” available on Netflix later this month. The other explores how the narrative of passing has been used by Black writers since the 19th century to help white audiences gain sympathy for Black hardships.

Check out this GQ profile of former NBA great Allen Iverson, who discusses his bad boy image and his new marijuana venture.

Sci-fi fans, get ready: The remake of “Dune” is out this weekend, featuring an all-star cast of thousands, from Zendaya to Timothée Chalamet to Oscar Isaac to Jason Momoa.

Will Smith’s got a new movie. And Beyonce’s got a new song. Check out both of them in this trailer for “King Richard,” where the Fresh Prince plays Richard Williams, paterfamilias of Serena and Venus. Queen Bee belts “Be Alive” in the background.

TikToks of the Day: First, we’re here for these corny Halloween jokes.

Also, brb. Teaching our dogs how to breakdance, too.

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