White House denounces criticism of door-to-door vaccination campaign


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WASHINGTON (AP) – “Bad service to the country. “” Misinformation inaccurate. “Literally killing people.”

For months, the White House Biden has refrained from criticizing Republican officials who downplayed the importance of coronavirus vaccinations or sought political hay from the total federal effort to push gunfire . No longer.

As COVID-19 vaccination rates level off across the country, the White House is fighting back against those it sees as spreading harmful disinformation or fear of gunfire.

When South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster this week attempted to block door-to-door efforts to increase vaccination rates in his state, White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not did not mince words in his reaction.

“Failure to provide accurate public health information, including the effectiveness of vaccines and their accessibility to people across the country, including South Carolina, is literally killing people, so maybe it should. they take that into account, ”she said on Friday.

While 67% of American adults have received at least one dose, officials are increasingly concerned about the wide geographic disparity in vaccination rates, and the emergence of what some experts warn could be two radically different realities for the country in the coming months: and a decrease in the number of cases in the more democratic parts of the country, as well as new hot spots and the development of dangerous variants in more GOP-trending areas.

During the administration’s first months, the White House largely refused to criticize the management of their vaccination programs by state and local authorities, eager to maintain their membership and prevent the politicization of the rescue campaign.

The recent change in tone comes after some GOP officials criticized President Joe Biden for calling for a door-to-door campaign to disseminate information about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in the hopes it would encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“Now we have to go community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and often door to door – literally knocking on doors – to get help for the remaining people” who need to be vaccinated, Biden said on Tuesday. .

The local component of the vaccination campaign has been operational since April, when vaccine supplies began to exceed demand. It was described and funded by Congress in the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March and is carried out largely by local officials and private sector workers and volunteers.

But some GOP members saw a political opening, responding to the roots of the small government and the party’s libertarian wing.

“The Biden administration wants to knock on your door to see if you are vaccinated,” Ohio Representative Jim Jordan tweeted. “What’s next? Knock on your door to see if you have a gun?”

McMaster has called on his state’s health department to ban state and local health groups “from using the ‘targeted’ ‘door-to-door’ tactics of the Biden administration.”

“The decision of a South Carolinian to get vaccinated is a personal decision, not a government decision,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the ministry. “Inducing, coercing, intimidating, coercing or pressuring anyone to take the vaccine is bad policy that will deteriorate public confidence in the state’s immunization efforts. “

In Missouri, meanwhile, GOP Governor Mike Parson tweeted: “I have asked our Department of Health to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door to door to force vaccination would NOT be an effective OR welcome strategy in Missouri. ! “

Earlier in the week, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to Biden condemning the new strategy.

For Biden’s usually reserved White House, which has long fueled private frustrations over some states’ lagging immunization programs but refused to condemn them publicly for fear of playing on political divisions over public health, it said ‘was a bridge too far.

“For the individuals, organizations that are fueling disinformation and trying to distort this type of trusted messenger work, I think you are doing the country a disservice and the doctors, religious leaders, community leaders and others a disservice. who are working to get people vaccinated, saving lives and helping end this pandemic, ”White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.

Months ago, Biden’s White House refrained from responding when officials criticized his vaccine allocation strategy of sending more doses directly to pharmacies instead of going through the country’s health services. State after the old strategy has proven to be more effective. He has largely remained silent as he watched officials spread fear of vaccine “passports” and assiduously avoided engaging publicly with fringe lawmakers who have promoted vaccine skepticism.

The new public expression of frustration comes amid lingering disbelief that tens of millions of Americans continue to refuse to be vaccinated, unnecessarily prolonging the pandemic and costing lives, as government health officials point out that almost all severe cases and deaths are now preventable.

White House officials are quick to point out that their criticism is not related to the political affiliation of officials but to their rhetoric. They credit effective vaccine communication and leadership from GOP officials including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. But they continue to be concerned that some GOP officials seek to increase their own fortunes by fueling doubts about vaccination.

Psaki refuted some allegations about the door-to-door program on Thursday, noting that in most cases: “They are not members of the government. They are not federal government employees. They are volunteers. They are members of the clergy. They are voices of trust in the communities who play this role and knock on doors. “

Acknowledging that the rhetoric has been “a little frustrating for us”, she also noted that there are indications that knocking on the door has helped promote shooting in areas behind the rest of the country. . “Alabama: Adult vaccination rate increased 3.9%; Another 149,000 adults received their first dose in June, ”she said, adding that Florida saw an increase of 4.4% and Georgia 3.5%.

“It’s important work that leads to more vaccinations,” Zients said, “and it’s done by people who care about the health of their families, friends and neighbors.”

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