COVID-19 in the US: The Hardest Home Stretch of Vaccination

The Biden administration, joined by pastors, local leaders, and even Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, stepped up efforts to persuade the most hesitant Americans to get vaccinated.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be gradually subsiding in the U.S. The vast majority of states and cities are lifting restrictions, but the situation is not under control just yet. While from February to mid-June the number of new cases and deaths had decreased steadily, the infection curve flattened and remained at a stable level. Authorities are concerned that more and more infections are caused by the Delta variant, considered more deadly than other variants. Some regions in the southern states, such as Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, have seen a sharp increase in infections.

Biden Promised More

The main issue is the vaccines. Experts emphasize that approximately 99% of new cases and deaths are among unvaccinated people. Joe Biden had announced that by July 4, 70% of adults should have received at least one dose of the vaccine. However, the target was not achieved; only 67% of Americans were partially vaccinated, and less than 60% fully.

According to epidemiologists, the population will only achieve herd immunity when at least 70% of the population is vaccinated, allowing life to return to normal. Meanwhile, in some states, particularly in the South, only 30% of the population has received the vaccine. Six months ago, the main setback was insufficient supply of vaccines; however, for a while now, their supply far exceeds their demand, i.e., those who are unvaccinated and awaiting their first dose. While in mid-April, Americans received over 3 million doses a day, the average number of doses now is 870,000.

A Push To Boost Vaccine Uptake

The strongest COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is seen among African Americans, the less educated and ultra-conservative Republican voters linked to former President Donald Trump. This is generally due to a lack of trust in medicine and health care, especially among Black citizens, who have in the past had drugs tested on them without their knowledge or consent. The hesitancy is also caused by the influence of conspiracy theories and the fear that the vaccines are ineffective and can cause serious side effects, such as infertility.

For a while now, many states have been using various vaccine incentives, such as free beer and raffles, with prizes such as scholarships for college, or cars.

The Biden administration has stepped up efforts to persuade the most hesitant Americans to get vaccinated. On Tuesday, the president called on employers to set up ad hoc clinics in their offices where employees could receive the vaccine. The government is also calling for makeshift mobile vaccination points at popular sporting events and fairs. State and local governments are sending volunteers to neighborhoods with particularly low vaccination rates to knock on doors and encourage vaccinations. Local leaders, such as pastors and other religious leaders, are being mobilized to encourage the most skeptical members of their congregations. Prominent figures in politics have become involved in the push to boost vaccine uptake, including second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is strongly pro-vaccine.

‘How about Don’t Knock on My Door’

The opposition does not hold back on criticizing the actions of the Democratic administration. Republican members of Congress and right-wing commentators on Fox News attack the door-to-door campaign, branding it a violation of privacy. “How about don’t knock on my door. You’re not my parents. You’re the government. Make the vaccine available, and let people be free to choose,” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican. “Vaccine education and conversation should be between a doctor and patient, not by a grassroot government door knocker,” Nicole Saphier, doctor and Fox News contributor, wrote.

The prospect of boosting vaccination rates is not very promising, even though the pandemic has become the heart of political dispute in the U.S.

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