As COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to plateau across the U.S., the White House is beginning to call out elected officials who criticize the national effort to get people immunized.
After South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tried to block door-to-door efforts to increase vaccinations last week, according to The Associated Press, White House press secretary Jen Psaki challenged the spread of misinformation and fear around vaccines.
“The failure to provide accurate public health information, including the efficacy of vaccines and the accessibility of them to people across the country, including South Carolina, is literally killing people,” she said Friday during a news briefing.
Psaki and top U.S. health officials have voiced their concerns about a divided country with two realities as the pandemic continues: one with high vaccination rates and low COVID-19 cases in Democratic-leaning areas, and one with low vaccination rates, new outbreaks, and emerging variants in Republican-leaning areas.
Last week, President Joe Biden announced renewed efforts to reach the last third of adults who haven’t received a shot, including a grassroots campaign to deploy mobile vaccine clinics and send vaccines to local family doctors and pediatricians.
“Now we need to go community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oftentimes, door-to-door ― literally knocking on doors ― to get help to the remaining people,” Biden said during remarks on Tuesday.
Although the local vaccination campaign has been ongoing since April, last week’s speech provided an opening for conservative leaders to speak out, the AP reported. McMaster asked South Carolina’s health department to stop state and local health groups from using door-to-door tactics, and Missouri Gov. Mike Pearson told his state health department that door-to-door tactics weren’t welcome. Arizona and Ohio officials also condemned Biden’s new strategy.
“The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you’re vaccinated,” Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan wrote in a Twitter post on Thursday. “What’s next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?”
In response, Psaki said that door-to-door campaigns have been helpful in states that are lagging, such as Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, where vaccination rates increased in June. She also rebutted allegations that might stoke fear about community-based outreach.
“They are not members of the government. They are not federal government employees,” she said Thursday during a news briefing. “They are volunteers. They are clergy. They are trusted voices in communities who are playing this role and door knocking.”
Ultimately, Biden administration officials said, the ongoing divide and rhetoric are getting in the way of saving lives, the AP reported.
“For those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted-messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country,” Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Thursday during a separate COVID-19 news briefing.
They’re also wronging “the doctors, faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives, and help end this pandemic,” he said.
The Associated Press: “White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push.”
White House: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, July 9, 2021,” “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, July 8, 2021,” “Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials, July 8, 2021,” “Remarks by President Biden on the COVID-19 Response and the Vaccination Program.”
Twitter: @Jim_Jordan, July 8, 2021
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