Biden administration unveils network of community leaders to urge COVID-19 vaccinations

Biden administration unveils network of community leaders to urge COVID-19 vaccinations
© Greg Nash

The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a network of community leaders tasked with boosting COVID-19 vaccine confidence in their communities. 

More than 275 founding members have formed the COVID-19 Community Corps that the administration plans to activate as part of its public education campaign on the virus, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.

“It is about reminding our fellow person of their power and that we see them, that they matter, and that we’re going to help each other out,” Vice President Harris said on Thursday in a virtual meeting with the founding members.

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Officials plan to provide “consistent and accurate information” on COVID-19 and the vaccine to these ”trusted messengers” for them to share with their family, friends and community and to promote vaccinations. 

“They need to hear from the people they trust and again, that is you,” Harris said. “The basic message of course we all know, is pretty straight forward: the vaccine is safe, and it will save lives.”

The members range from sports leagues like MLB, NFL and NASCAR to organizations like the NAACP and GLAAD. The network also includes rural, union, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Native and tribal, veteran, business and faith leaders. 

Reed Tuckson of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, Neil Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mary Kay Henry of Service Employees International Union, Zippy Duvall of the American Farm Bureau Federation and Hyepin Im of Faith and Community Empowerment all spoke at the meeting on Thursday.

“Now that the vaccine supply is ramping up, we look forward to the next step, which is addressing barriers to receiving the vaccine and making sure that folks understand that the vaccine is safe and effective,” Duvall said, stressing that he will promote the vaccine in rural areas.

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Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyFauci joins YouTube coronavirus special aimed at Black community Biden walks fine line with Fox News If you care about the First Amendment, this class action is for you MORE joined Harris in the meeting with the founding members. 

Im emphasized at the meeting the power of faith leaders in promoting the vaccine.

“All faith leaders, people look upon them with trust, they’re accessible and they’re free. In many ways, they are the first people that they go to,” she said.

Harris said that the founding members will all receive a social media toolkit on Thursday and more resources later. HHS noted in announcing the program that anyone can become a member and receive weekly updates, talking points on the vaccine, social media recommendations, infographics, fact sheets and tools to assist in vaccine registration. 

Overall, the public education campaign will be led by Murthy, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciMcConnell: 'It never occurred to me' convincing Americans to get vaccinated would be difficult Retailers face tough decision on requiring masks again White House instructs agencies to mandate masks indoors in DC MORE, COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair Marcella Nunez-SmithMarcella Nunez-SmithBiden administration unveils network of community leaders to urge COVID-19 vaccinations Overnight Health Care: White House to ship coronavirus vaccines directly to community health centers | WHO: 'Unlikely' that COVID-19 came from a lab | Uber and Walgreens to offer free rides to COVID vaccine sites White House to ship COVID-19 vaccines directly to community health centers MORE and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyApple restores mask mandate at most stores: report Retailers face tough decision on requiring masks again CNN host presses CDC chief on mask guidance: 'Why the hell' do vaccinated 'have to pay the price' MORE.

Through the campaign, HHS and the CDC will also release Facebook profile frames that people can place on their profile pictures to show support for the vaccine. These frames will be found in Facebook's news feed and recommended to influencers.

The department will also launch four TV and digital ads advocating for vaccinations and promoting the message “We Can Do This.” The administration will run the ads — which will start Thursday and are set to run through April — in general market broadcast and cable advertising and Spanish-language media, as well as outlets that reach Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander and tribal audiences. 

The public education campaign comes as the U.S., at 97 million, nears 30 percent of its population having received at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 16 percent are considered fully vaccinated, according to CDC data

In total, more than 150 million doses have been administered, more than halfway to Biden’s updated goal of 200 million doses in his first 100 days in office.

Updated at 10:30 a.m.