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  • April 01, 2021
Herminia Sharp, left, and Dennis Sharp, right, receive Covid-19 vaccine shots in Riverside County, Calif., on Friday.
Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

The Biden administration announced an advertising campaign on Thursday intended to encourage as many Americans as possible to be inoculated against the coronavirus, as deep skepticism about the vaccine remains.

The campaign, to air this month on network and cable television and online, comes as the country is moving to rapidly vaccinate Americans and as federal health officials warn against a possible fourth surge of the virus. The average number of new cases reported daily has risen about 17 percent across the country, compared with two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.

Making equity a focus of its pandemic response, the Biden administration has added mass vaccination sites in several underserved communities. A recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the number of Americans, particularly Black adults, who want to get vaccinated has continued to increase. But it also found that vaccine skepticism remains stubbornly persistent, particularly among Republicans and white evangelical Christians. The Biden administration has flagged the issue as an impediment to achieving herd immunity and a return to normal life.

The administration is working with 275 organizations in its new public awareness push — including NASCAR, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the North American Meat Institute. The advertisements, hopeful in tone and intended as a call to action, are aimed at communities where vaccine hesitancy remains high. For example, many Catholic and evangelical groups are expected to help address religious concerns about the Johnson Johnson vaccine, which was developed with abortion-derived fetal cell lines.

The group is collectively called the Covid-19 Community Corps, administration officials said, and participating organizations are able to reach millions of Americans who trust them.

“They’re going to listen to your words, more than they are me, as president of the United States,” President Biden said Thursday on a call with faith leaders from around the country.

Administration officials said their research showed that vaccine messaging was often more persuasive coming from medical professionals and community leaders than from celebrities or the president,

The nation was averaging 2.8 million shots a day as of Wednesday, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number has been steadily increasing as more vaccination sites have been set up and more vaccine supply became available.

“We have to be honest that in some communities, there is a concern about getting vaccinated, some based on mistrust based on history, some based on — just rooted in misinformation, of which there is a lot out there,” Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday during a virtual meeting about educating the public about the vaccines.

While no group is monolithic in its reasons for opposing or accepting the vaccines, the people who say they are skeptical have said they mistrust the government in general and are wary about the vaccine because it was produced quickly. Combating online misinformation remains a challenge; one fast-spreading myth is that tracker microchips are embedded in the shots.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, explained on Wednesday that the speed in developing the virus vaccines was not a sign of rushed work.

“The speed is really a reflection of decades of scientific advances that led to our being able to make a vaccine and test it so quickly,” Dr. Fauci said during an interview with LL Cool J. “It’s been tested in tens and tens of thousands of people and it has shown a high degree of efficacy and a very, very good safety profile.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has separately bought millions of dollars worth of advertising in Black and Spanish-language media, as well as in outlets that reach Asian-American and tribal communities, reinforcing the message about the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines.

In early March, a New York Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information showed that the vaccination rate for Black people in the United States was half that of white people, and the gap for Hispanic people was even larger. Public health experts have said that obstacles to vaccine access deserve much of the blame for those vaccination disparities.

Black and Hispanic people in the United States are less likely than their white counterparts to have internet access reliable enough to make online appointments; to have work schedules flexible enough to take any available opening; and to have access to dependable transportation to vaccine sites, among other factors. A lack of access to information about the vaccine through trusted providers can also lead to uncertainty and an unwillingness to get a shot.

For rural residents, access to the vaccine is so problematic that they see the logistics and travel time involved as simply not worth it.

Jan Hoffman contributed reporting.

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