“A difficult task”: White House struggles to increase vaccination rates as Delta variant rises


Only about 46% of the US population is vaccinated, and the number of doses administered has declined by nearly 300,000 per day since June 7, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Capped vaccination rate highlights how the White House struggles to find new and better ways to convince Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 – while much of the rest of the world struggles to guarantee a constant supply of vaccines. And it raises questions about how the federal government will handle the increase in Covid-19 cases associated with the Delta variant in the coming months as businesses and schools return to normal operations.

“It’s the door-to-door campaign, it’s church-to-church, it’s going into the community and meeting people where they are. We’re not going to convince everyone, ”said Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “The Delta variant and its explosive growth – I wish there was a better way to express the damage it does and will do in these communities, but it will be a difficult task.”

New Covid-19 infections have increased by more than 50% in the past two weeks in under-vaccinated states such as Missouri and Oklahoma. Many cases are linked to the Delta variant, which the CDC now says accounts for one-fifth of new infections nationwide.

“Based on the data we have now, the Delta variant is more transmissible than Alpha,” the strain that has predominated in the United States this spring, said Summer Galloway, senior advisor at the agency.

Preliminary data from the UK suggests that unvaccinated people infected with the Delta variant have an increased risk of hospitalization, she added. The CDC is investigating whether the variant causes more serious infections in under-vaccinated communities. But there is good news: Recent data shows that the Pfizer vaccine is nearly 90% effective against Delta, making vaccination one of the most effective ways to stop the progression of the variant across the states. United.

“We really want to encourage everyone… to get vaccinated. What we don’t want to happen is that we have a significant proportion of the population that is not vaccinated and you are seeing an increase in the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations, the number of death, ”Galloway said. “It could lead to another push.”

In the meantime, the CDC still encourages unvaccinated people to wear masks and avoid crowded indoor gatherings, a spokesperson for the agency said.

The number of American adults who say they definitely won’t take a Covid-19 vaccine has remained stable at 13%, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last month. Twelve percent say they are waiting to decide whether to get the vaccine, while 7 percent say they will only opt for the vaccination if it is necessary for work or other activities.

The Biden administration launched a billion-dollar advertising campaign in March, using radio and TV spots to educate Americans about the benefits of vaccination and about where and when they could get the vaccine. The administration has partnered with 275 groups, including the Christian Broadcasting Network and Nascar, to reach areas where hesitation or outright opposition to vaccines is high.

The federal government has also partnered with the Ad Council – a nonprofit that often partners with the federal government on public service announcements – and the Covid Collaborative, a group of organizations working together to fight against the virus, on advertisements promoting Covid-19 vaccines. The CDC’s Vaccine Task Force is also offering “Vaccine Confidence Consultations” to interested jurisdictions. The consultations include briefings between CDC officials and local leaders on how states can build confidence in their communities around immunization.

Biden’s three senior health officials said the administration was placing more emphasis on the responsibility of convincing the unvaccinated to send the vaccine to local authorities, who can call on trusted community leaders to spread the word. The hope is that these local leaders will be more effective messengers than national advertising campaigns or senior federal officials.

Over the past two weeks, officials from the CDC, HHS and the White House Covid-19 task force have formulated a plan to work with local officials, including mayors, to knock on doors in areas to low vaccination rates to talk with people about signing up for the shot. Officials like President Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky are also increasing their appearances on national TV programs and in the local press in the South where the Delta variant is spreading.

Fauci, for example, visited vaccination sites in New York and Florida this month with First Lady Jill Biden. He spent the June vacation going door-to-door with Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, urging city residents to get vaccinated.

But the Biden team is still not sure how many people could be influenced by these more local calls. The White House is now planning what senior officials see as inevitable outbreaks of Covid-19 in several states with low vaccination rates later this summer and fall.

Many states have already tried on their own to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 – often through lotteries and other financial incentives. But this strategy has largely failed and cases of Delta Covid-19 continue to increase.

The CDC is now considering updating guidelines for schools and for domestic and international travel. Federal and state health officials are debating how and whether to recommend proof of vaccination for everything from restaurants to movie theaters to office buildings. The fear, Fauci recently told POLITICO, is that recommending proof of vaccination could cause an uproar among unvaccinated people. While federal health officials have promised so-called vaccine passports will not be implemented nationally, some states and private companies have explored the use of vaccine passes to support a safe reopening.

European Union officials recently pressured U.S. diplomats overseas to open trips to the United States with proof of vaccination, according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the matter. Germany recently issued an order allowing all U.S. residents to enter the country if they can prove they are vaccinated or a Covid-19 test is negative.

For now, officials in the Biden administration say the growing number of Delta cases is a cause for concern but not overwhelming fear. The widely used Pfizer vaccine in the United States works well against the variant; Moderna’s vaccine uses similar technology, so it is hoped that it will be just as effective in warding off Delta. The CDC is currently conducting studies to determine how well current vaccines protect against Delta and what impact it has on the unvaccinated population, especially children.

“We must remain vigilant. We see that this strain drastically affects the protection people get from the first dose, ”said Phil Febbo, chief medical officer at DNA sequencing company Illumina, which is working with the CDC to study the spread of variants of Covid-19 in the United States. I don’t think we’re that far away from a different variant that goes beyond Delta and drastically decreases the effectiveness of both doses.


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