PORTAGE, MI – A small group of protesters stood outside the Pfizer building in Portage as President Joseph Biden visited the facility where the COVID-19 vaccine is produced.
The group of 10 played music, rang bells and held signs criticizing the president and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who joined the president in touring the vaccine production plant.
Related: In Michigan, Biden says the end of the coronavirus pandemic will come when Americans get vaccinated
John Clore descended from Lansing, donning his COVID Man superhero uniform consisting of a plastic-wrapped laundry basket, hazmat suit and the old Soviet union flag as a cape.
The group was made up of individuals who met during the lockdown and put an end to the theft rallies throughout the year. The protest group declined after the January uprising on the U.S. Capitol, said Steven Lee, a resident of Grand Rapids.
Lee was among those who traveled to Washington DC to stop the robbery rallies and marched to the Capitol. Lee said he did not enter the Capitol building, but the response to the insurgency had an impact on his close circle of friends. The videos posted by him and his girlfriend on social media drew visits from the federal government, he said.
Since then, there has been a massive fallout, Lee said of the local group of stop the fly protesters.
He describes himself as a longtime truthful who was skeptical of mandatory vaccines before the pandemic. Although Lee has said he is not against the vaccine or against those who choose to take it, he is concerned that the relationship between government and companies to deploy the COVID-19 vaccine may undermine his choices.
Related: As President Biden visits Pfizer factory, residents awaiting COVID-19 vaccine express fear and frustration
He said he was concerned the COVID-19 vaccine would become a requirement for jobs or group events like concerts.
If Lee was able to speak to Biden one-on-one, his message would be simple: Leave us alone.
State Representative Steve Carra, R-St. Joseph, joined the group to express his skepticism about the speed of vaccine production. He said the government was going too far in providing federal funding for its production and distribution.
Much like a loaf of bread, if you want to go buy a loaf of bread that should come out of your pocket, Carra says. If you want to get vaccinated. Go ahead, go buy it. It’s up to you.
To speed up vaccine production, the Trump administration launched an $ 18 billion Warp Speed project. Pfizer distanced itself from the project and did not accept seed funding for the research portion of the Warp Speed project.
The company has made deals with the federal government to sell the vaccine. The Trump administration has ordered a total of 200 million doses from Pfizer. The second half was contracted to arrive in June. Biden announced that Pfizer had agreed to expedite the process a month earlier for those doses to be delivered in May.
Contracts for an additional 100 million Pfizer vaccines were also finalized last week. Biden said the country is now on track to have a sufficient supply of 300 million doses by the end of July.
Carra also questions the unprecedented speed at which the vaccine was made.
The COVID-19 vaccine was produced, approved and distributed within nine months. The production of Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines far surpassed the mumps vaccine, which was developed over four years and released to the public in 1977.
Jon Rocha, a member of the Michigan Needs an Adjustment Facebook group which has gathered nearly 55,000 subscribers, said the discussion around the vaccine need not be political.
I think you can be excited about the ingenuity and values of hard work and getting things done quickly, he said. But you still have to come to it with skepticism, say okay, why did it come so quickly.
Pharmaceutical companies give credit to mRNA technology for its rapid pace. German company BioNTech was ahead of the game and was already testing mRNA vaccines against influenza, Zika virus and rabies.
Project Warp Speed also allowed for faster approval. Still, the Food and Drug Administration has set the emergency use threshold for COVID-19 vaccines at 50% effectiveness.
The Pfizer BioNTech product achieved 95% effectiveness and was approved by the FDA on December 11 for emergency clearance.
Learn more about MLive:
5 reasons coronavirus cases are declining in Michigan
Former and current Pfizer workers cheer on vaccine maker ahead of President Bidens Portage visit
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work against new variants, new studies show
Bidens Visit to Pfizer Michigan Plant Focuses on Vaccine Distribution and Economic Relief
Advocates to call on President Biden to help end Myanmar coup during Friday visit to Michigan
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