Ten Questions the Press Should Have Asked President Biden

A socially distant press conference shouldn't mean distance from the most important story

Yesterday, President Joe Biden held his first press conference. There were questions on Biden’s plans for the 2024 election (four years away!), the filibuster (over which he has no control), and Donald Trump (could we hear even less about him?), but not a single question on the pandemic. Not one.

I found it hard to believe and had to check from multiple sources this was the case. And, yep. The White House press corps did not ask a single question about the pandemic. This is quite revealing of how the political press is often aloof from the core problems that the country faces. Still, it’s not like we’re lacking questions about the pandemic! 

Here are 10 questions that could have been, should have been, asked.

1. Given the data indicating that minority groups—who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic—are being undervaccinated, what are the plans to ensure vaccine equity?

2. What are the plans to address vaccine hesitancy, which seems to be especially high among supporters of the ex-president?

3. What are the steps the US is taking to increase the vaccination supply globally? For example, the US government brokered an agreement between Johnson and Johnson and Merck so that Merck facilities can be converted to produce more of the J&J vaccine. Are other facilities being converted? Can they be?

4. Will the United States support plans to lift or alter intellectual property restrictions and help figure out how to convert manufacturing capacity around the world so more vaccines can be produced?

5. How many doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are warehoused in the United States already, including those that have not yet been bottled but could easily be done so? When will the United States release the rest of that supply, given that the other three vaccines are already slated to deliver more than enough vaccines for the eligible population of the United States?

6. Will there be a blue-ribbon committee to investigate what went wrong with the United States pandemic response?

7. Will there be an infrastructure overhaul of our buildings—especially our schools—to address ventilation, which the pandemic has revealed as an essential mitigation and indeed potentially a way to improve health and well-being of students?

8. Is there a plan to finally produce, approve and distribute rapid tests as part of ongoing efforts to detect and target outbreaks?

9. There are current outbreaks/surges in Michigan and the Northeast corridor, and these seem to be connected to a more transmissible, and even possibly more lethal, variant. Is the United States considering a vaccine surge (or ring vaccination) targeting those areas? Are there other plans?

10. There are a lot of discussions around vaccine mandates or “vaccine passports” going forward. Does the United States have plans to participate in such schemes that other countries are already implementing? Are there plans to mandate vaccines in certain settings like nursing homes?

Members of the White House press corps, feel free to take these questions and ask them yourself! Or, maybe, editors can send reporters who cover public health and policy so we can get some relevant questions asked of our new president.