Joe Biden on the campaign trail in 2019. Photo from his campaign.
WASHINGTON — Free child care during COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Late-night appointment slots on Fridays.
And free beer for everybody over 21 if President Joe Biden’s vaccination goal is reached next month.
These are some of the latest incentives and strategies lined up by the Biden administration to boost national vaccinations against COVID-19 leading up to the president’s goal of having 70% of U.S. adults receive at least one shot by July Fourth.
Twelve states have already reached that mark, according to the White House, including Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. In Ohio, 45.5% of eligible residents have started vaccination.
Nationally, 63% of adults have gotten one shot, and more than half of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As vaccinations have increased, the national rates of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths have plunged, with U.S. cases down 45% over the last two weeks.
But Biden has urged Americans to do more to drive up those numbers, and on Wednesday, said his administration was “pulling out all the stops” on a national month of action focused on persuading those so far unable or unwilling to roll up their sleeves for a shot.
Kaiser Family Foundation’s May survey found only 4% of the respondents plan to get a vaccine as soon as possible, with 12% saying they will wait and see, 7% saying they will only if required, and 13% don’t plan to at all.
Some Americans still have questions about safety. Asked in that Kaiser survey about what would make them more likely to get a shot, the largest share, 32%, said they want to see a vaccine receive full approval from the Food & Drug Administration, not just the current authorization for emergency use.
Others who remain unvaccinated need help getting to an appointment, through time off work, help with transportation, or finding someone to take care of small children during an appointment.
Part of the federal government’s latest efforts include a partnership with national child care providers — KinderCare, Learning Care Group, Bright Horizons, and more than 500 YMCAs in nearly every state — to offer free, drop-in appointments to parents and caregivers who need support to get vaccinated.
And to reach others? Free stuff.
Biden touted a range of incentives on Wednesday, praising the cash lotteries in place in several states, including Ohio. The Kroger grocery store chain also is giving $1 million to a vaccinated person every week in June, and will give dozens of vaccinated Americans free groceries for a year.
Professional basketball, hockey and baseball teams are offering free tickets to get people vaccinated, as are NASCAR venues.
And the beer is on brewing giant Anheuser Busch of St. Louis, Mo., on July Fourth for everyone at least 21 years old, Biden said, touting the company’s pledge to offer free beer, seltzer or a non-alcoholic drink if the White House’s vaccination goal is reached by that date.
“That’s right — get a shot, and have a beer,” Biden said Wednesday during a speech laying out the latest outreach efforts.
His administration also is teaming up with mayors and Black-owned barbershops. More than 50 mayors of cities so far are competing to see which city can grow its vaccination rate the most by July Fourth.
The initiative with Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons will focus on businesses in areas with the lowest vaccination rates, offering education materials on the vaccines to customers and hosting on-site vaccination events.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris and Jill Biden, the first lady, will hit the road on a national tour to encourage vaccinations.
“We can declare independence from COVID-19 and free ourselves from the grip it has held over our lives for the better part of a year,” Biden said. “Each of you has the power to help us gain this freedom as a nation.”
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