Journalist uncovers Chinese documents that could reveal COVID intentions
Australian journalist Sharri Markson discusses a new document she uncovered about bio-weaponry in China
Thrown off-stride to reach its COVID-19 vaccination goal, the Biden administration is sending A-list officials across the country, devising ads for niche markets and enlisting community organizers to persuade unvaccinated people to get a shot.
The strategy has the trappings of a political campaign, complete with data crunching to identify groups that can be won over.
But the message is about public health, not ideology. The focus is a group health officials term the “movable middle” — some 55 million unvaccinated adults seen as persuadable, many of them under 30.
“We’re not just going to do the mass vaccination sites,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “It’s door to door. It’s mobile clinics. We’re doing vaccinations at church, the PTA meeting, the barber shop, lisinopril classification of drug the grocery store.”
Officials have seized on a compelling new talking point, courtesy of the coronavirus. The potent delta variant that has ravaged India is spreading here. Now accounting for about 1 in 5 virus samples genetically decoded in the U.S., the more transmissible mutation has gained a foothold in Mountain West and heartland states. Many of those infected are young and unvaccinated.
The White House has lent its top names to the vaccine push.
Biden officials say they recognize that it’s going to take more than celebrity pitches to close the deal. In Knoxville, Tennessee, a retired hospice and home care administrator has become a volunteer COVID-19 response organizer in the Black community. Cynthia Finch is one of many around the country to whom federal health officials have turned as “trusted messengers.”
Finch dubbed her local vaccine strategy the “3 V’s.” She started with what she calls “vaccine partners,” such as local hospitals and universities, to create a framework. Then she organized volunteers to give shots by working with professional groups including a Black nursing sorority. Finally, she reached out to pastors and community organizations to provide venues where people could come to get their vaccines. Finch estimates those efforts have led to thousands of people getting fully vaccinated.
She said she is used to dealing with skepticism, particularly given the history of substandard care in minority communities and the use of Black patients in medical experiments without their consent. She tries to listen carefully to objections and concerns, and respond with factual information that’s on point.
“When you start telling them things they can relate to, it kind of calms them down,” she said.
Her own motivation is personal. Finch said a close friend lost two brothers days apart to COVID-19, and that motivates her to keep working. “People are still dying,” she said.
While applauding the Biden administration’s efforts to get Americans vaccinated, some public health experts say there are limits to what persuasion can achieve.
The administration has ruled out vaccine passports that could become a ticket to benefits such as international travel. But Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, said a federal verification system that people could use to prove their vaccination status could still be an incentive.
“Setting an aspirational goal of 70% was the right goal for the Biden administration, but I wish they had not been so hesitant about vaccination requirements,” she said.
“We are going to be in a position where the majority of the country is going to be vaccinated,” said Wen. “Why should they be held hostage by a minority of the population, who are potentially endangering everybody else?”
Administration officials show no signs of budging in their position. “The federal government is not planning to create a database of people who have been vaccinated,” Murthy said.
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