Biden launches community corps to boost COVID vaccinations

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Washington — Seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy, the Biden administration is unveiling a coalition of community, religious and celebrity partners to promote COVID vaccines.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ “We Can Do This” campaign features television and social media ads, but it also relies on a community corps of public health, athletic, faith and other groups to spread the word about the safety and efficacy of the three approved vaccines. The campaign comes amid worries that reluctance to get vaccinated will delay the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will meet with the more than 275 inaugural members of the community corps on Thursday to kick off the effort.

The focus on trusted validators stems from both internal and public surveys showing those skeptical of the vaccines are most likely to be swayed by local, community and medical encouragement to get vaccinated, rather than messages from politicians.

Courtney Rowe, the White House’s COVID-19 director of strategic communications and engagement, briefed governors on the new initiative Tuesday, telling them that people “want to hear from those they know and trust.” She added that the initiative would be “empowering the leaders people want to hear from.”

The coalition includes health groups like the American Medical Association and the National Council of Urban Indian Health, sports leagues like the NFL and MLB, rural groups, unions and Latino, Black, Asian-American Pacific Islander and Native American organizations as well as coalitions of faith, business and veterans leaders.

The Department of Health and Human Services was also launching its first national ad campaign promoting vaccinations, aimed at senior, Latino and Black Americans. And in partnership with Facebook, it was deploying social media profile frames so that ordinary Americans could share their intent to get vaccinations and their experience with the shots to their peers.

By the end of May, the U.S. will have enough supply of COVID-19 vaccine to cover all adults in the country, with President Biden’s administration now shifting its efforts to ensuring nearly all Americans choose to get vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has estimated that 70% to 85% of the population needs to be immune to the virus to reach herd immunity.

Mr. Biden last week announced he doubled the goal for vaccine doses administered within his first 100 days in office to 200 million. More than 150 million doses have been administered so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 54.6 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

Since assuming the presidency, Mr. Biden has undertaken efforts to speed up the pace of vaccinations and ensure they are distributed equitably. The administration last week announced it would be spending $10 billion to fight vaccine inequities, $6 billion of which will go to 1,400 community health centers beginning this month.  The federal government has also been sending vaccine doses directly to retail pharmacies and federally qualified health centers. 

Mr. Biden on Monday said that by April 19, 90% of all Americans will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. He also directed his team to locate vaccination sites within 5 miles of 90% of all Americans to boost access to the shots.



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