The Biden administration on Thursday said its door-to-door campaign to boost COVID-19 vaccinations would hinge on doctors and trusted locals, not government agents, and scolded those pushing “misinformation” about the effort.
President Biden announced the localized effort on Tuesday, sparking conservative backlash. Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons said he will offer locations for people to get vaccinated but will not welcome “government employees or agents” going door to door to promote the shots, while Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked Mr. Biden for assurance that federal employees won’t be using medical records to single out the unvaccinated and show up at their door.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said the effort had been misunderstood. “The best people to talk about vaccinations with those who have questions are local trusted messengers — doctors, faith leaders, community leaders. As part of our efforts, trusted messengers may go door to door,” Mr. Zients said. “We’ve seen movement [in vaccination rates] by going person by person, community by community.
“I would say for those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation, and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working on getting people vaccinated, save lives and help end this pandemic,” he said.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the federal government does not maintain a database of who is vaccinated or not, “and we have no plans to.”
The clarification comes amid a broader debate about how aggressive the government, employers, or schools should be in pushing or mandating the shots as the vaccination campaign stalls out.
Less than half of the U.S. population — 48% — is fully vaccinated, and Mr. Zients said there is an emerging divide around who gets sick.
“Virtually all COVID hospitalization and deaths are now occurring among unvaccinated individuals,” he said. “The bottom line is there is simply no reason that this virus should severely impact anyone 12 and older. So our focus is on reaching those who have still not chosen to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.”
Neel Kashkari, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Fed, said the policy made sense because the bank is pivoting from fully remote efforts to office-based collaboration and operations that require public interaction.
“While we will enjoy more flexibility in where we work in the future, we are not going to be a fully remote institution. To fulfill our public-service mission, we need more face-to-face contact than remote work allows, but there is no way for us to bring a critical mass of our stuff back into our facilities and maintain social distancing. Hence, we need our employees to be vaccinated,” he wrote in a memo posted Wednesday.
He said there would be exemptions for workers who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or “sincerely held” religious beliefs. The policy will apply to new hires.