US ups efforts to inoculate vaccine skeptics and rural citizens

By Patricia de Arce

Washington, May 4 (EFE).- The United States has set a new Covid vaccination target: having 160 million people – almost half the population – fully immunized by July 4 and with 70 percent of the public having had at least one dose as it ups its efforts to convince vaccine skeptics to get the jab and get the vaccine to rural areas.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the new objectives and promised that, starting now, getting vaccinated will be “easier than ever,” going on to insist on de-linking the immunization campaign from politics.

Getting vaccinated isn’t a “Democratic or Republican” thing, but rather it’s “science” that provides support for the recommendation, Biden said.

The US vaccination campaign is proceeding apace – with 105.5 million people fully immunized and 147.5 million having had at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines, according to the latest figures – and this has been a determining factor in the reduction of deaths and infections around the country.

Even so, millions of people continue to refuse to be inoculated don’t believe that it’s necessary or live in areas and communities with poor access to the vaccines.

Therefore, in this new phase, the administration wants to focus on those areas, and also on getting teenagers immunized to prepare them to return to in-person classes in the fall.

Biden promised that when the Food and Drug Administration approves the Pfizer vaccine for teens between ages 12-15 the government will immediately move to make 20,000 pharmacies nationwide ready to give the injections to people without a prior appointment.

This will allow minors during the summer to receive their second doses at sites different from where they got their first injections.

But before the effort to vaccinate teens begins, the measures announced on Tuesday by Biden will be implemented to expand the number of people who have been immunized and ensure that by Independence Day the country will be nearing “normality.”

The aim at this point it twofold: convincing skeptics to get immunized and getting the vaccine to hard-to-reach portions of the country.

Thus, the White House said that the network of about 40,000 pharmacies will be ordered to vaccinate people without a prior appointment and the states will be encouraged to administer the vaccine on a walk-in basis at the facilities set up to provide it.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will provide support to local vaccination centers and will increase the number of mobile vaccination units, which will be dispatched to zones in which getting vaccine access is more difficult.

There will also be new investment provided to facilitate access to the vaccine, including $250 million to hire personnel to help with the immunization campaign and to facilitate access to more-at-risk groups or those people who have been more reticent to get inoculated, helping out in various ways, including providing transportation to people who need it.

Another $130 million will be allocated to education and information campaigns directed at rural communities, ethnic minorities, marginalized or neglected communities, the disabled and other groups.

In addition, rural areas will have vaccine sent directly to local clinics.

In his White House speech, the president thanked Republican leaders for encouraging people to get vaccinated and for continuing to ask the public to follow the recommendations of health authorities.

He did not appear, however, to be addressing these remarks to certain areas, including the state of Florida, whose Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, a Donald Trump loyalist, on Monday eliminated all anti-Covid restrictions and announced a gubernatorial decree prohibiting them from being reimposed by local authorities.

Biden also emphasized to reporters after his speech that setting the July 4 date did not mean that the anti-Covid battle would come to an end at that point, noting that vaccination will have to continue in the subsequent months.

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