In a virtual kickoff event Thursday morning, Vice President Harris and Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy introduced a grass-roots network of local leaders and prominent figures billed as the “Covid-19 Community Corps,” who are set to encourage shots, drawing on research that trusted voices are best able to win over vaccine-hesitant Americans.
“You are the people that folks on the ground know and rely on and have a history with,” Harris said at the kickoff. “And when people are then making a decision to get vaccinated, they’re going to look to you.”
The network includes more than 275 member organizations, a diverse mix of advocacy organizations, sports leagues, faith leaders and other prominent voices. Participants include the American Medical Association, the NAACP, the National Association of Evangelicals and the NFL. The effort was first detailed by Politico.
Biden officials positioned the two-pronged approach as the next stage in the administration’s public education efforts.
The ad campaign is intended as “a hopeful and unifying call to action that we each can do our part to end this pandemic by getting vaccinated,” the Health and Human Services Department said in a statement. The administration will spend more than $10 million on the TV ads in April, according to an HHS official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending announcement.
The campaign has been in development for months, with Biden officials working with several creative agencies and using a $250 million contract that the Trump administration signed with consultancy Fors Marsh last year. Officials have said they held the campaign until vaccines were widely available to maximize its impact. The administration also is rolling out new pro-vaccine images that people can use to frame their profile pictures on social media, with Facebook set to prominently promote them, and will run ads on digital outlets.
Nearly 100 million Americans have received at least one shot of vaccine, but Biden officials remain worried that tens of millions of people — including nearly one-third of Republicans — continue to say they won’t get inoculated although the vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective.
Some of the Biden administration’s ads, such as the Spanish-language “Un Rayo de Esperanza,” are targeted to populations where vaccinations have lagged behind. For instance, Hispanics represent 40 percent of California’s population and 55 percent of the state’s coronavirus cases, but have received just 22 percent of vaccinations, according to a review by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Biden administration also is buying ads in media outlets that cater to Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native American populations, officials said.
Meanwhile, administration officials said that the new grass-roots network would amplify public health information and pro-vaccine messages, with the vice president sharing stories of why more personalized communication about the vaccines is needed.
“Yesterday, I actually convened a group of faith leaders from around the country and they were very clear: They said, look, sometimes people just need basic information, you know?” Harris said. “You’re asking people to take a shot in the arm, they need to know what’s going on. They need to know things like, what’s in the vaccine? How does it work?”
Officials from the Black Coalition Against Covid-19, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau Federation, Faith & Community Empowerment and other groups participating in the network described how they’ve been reaching out to their members and vowed to ramp up their efforts.
“We’re ready to work with all of you to pull through this pandemic together,” said Mary Kay Henry, the leader of the Service Employees International Union, one of the coalition’s members.
Members of the public can also volunteer for the effort by registering with HHS.