Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday spoke in personal terms about a “full circle” moment after receiving the second dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the same National Institutes of Health building her late mother had frequented for work.
“I have the luxury of being here at this moment on just the fifth day of our administration — coming full circle because, you see, NIH was such a huge part of my youth as this place that my mother went all the time and was very excited to work,” Harris recalled moments after receiving her shot.
Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was a breast cancer researcher who had “two goals in her life,” the vice president said: “To raise her two daughters and end breast cancer. In fact, little-known fact, my first job was cleaning pipettes in my mother’s lab.”
Gopalan, who raised her daughters as a single mother, died in 2009. Harris has frequently recalled her mother’s profound influence on her life both in and out of politics. After she became the first Black and South Asian woman nominated to a major party’s presidential ticket this summer, Harris said, “I know she’s looking down on me from above.”
Turning to NIH employees Tuesday as she reflected on her mother’s passion for science, Harris added: “The importance of NIH is that this is about an essential function of government, which is to provide for the public health.”
“The work that happens here has one goal: to improve public health. And the importance of the pursuit of the work that happens at NIH is it’s not about profit. It’s about the people. And so I want to say to everyone who works here, I know who you are. I know what you do,” she continued.
“I know that you work around the clock with those experiments that have to be checked on every few hours, and they don’t care about what time it is on the clock. I know the work you do and the collaboration that is required.”
Harris had also received her first vaccine dose on camera last month. She reiterated Tuesday that the shot is “really pretty painless” and urged everyone “to take the vaccine when it is your turn.”
“It will save your life. So thanks to all who are doing this great and important work. Let’s make sure everyone gets the vaccine. On behalf of President Biden and myself, I thank you for everything you do every day.”