US president Joe Biden designated June as a "month of action" as he doubled down on efforts to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates across the United States ahead of Independence Day on July 4th.
In an address from the White House, Mr Biden announced a range of new initiatives to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated in a bid to ensure that 70 per cent of Americans will have at least one vaccine shot by July 4th.
“Do your part. Give it your all. Let’s celebrate a truly historic Independence Day,” he said as he outlined the measures.
These include the offer of free childcare to parents and caregivers receiving vaccines over the next month, an expansion of the scheme whereby ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft will offer free trips to and from vaccination centres, and an expansion of sites where vaccines can be administered – for example in barber shops and beauty salons.
Vice-president Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff and first lady Jill Biden will also embark on a tour of the south and midwest of the country – areas where vaccination rates are lower and Republican voters are less likely to get vaccinated, according to some polls.
‘Summer of get-togethers’
In a bid to reach out to Americans sceptical of the vaccine, Mr Biden said: “The vaccine is free, it’s safe and it is effective. Getting a vaccine is not a partisan act. The science was done under a Democratic and Republican administration. As a matter of fact, the first vaccines were authorised under a Republican president and deployed under a Democratic president.”
He also pointed out that while people all over the world are desperate to get vaccinated, Americans can get a vaccine for free at their local drug stores, though he did not give any update on the US plan to share millions of vaccines with other countries.
Instead he cast the opportunity to get vaccinated as a chance for Americans to get their freedom back. America is heading into a “summer of get-togethers and celebrations”, he said – “an all-American summer that this country deserves after the long, long winter we’ve all endured”.
The company behind Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch, announced on Wednesday that it would give every American adult a credit for a free beer on Independence Day if the goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of the adult population by the national holiday is reached.
Lotteries and baseball
Mr Biden also pointed to other incentives supported by the White House, including $1 million weekly lotteries offered by supermarket chain Kroger and offers of free baseball tickets for vaccinated people.
More than 52 per cent of the adult population in the United States is now fully vaccinated, including 75 per cent of all senior citizens. Twelve states have already reached the target of vaccinating 70 per cent of adults with at least one shot by early July, though the pace is much slower in other parts of the country where vaccination rates have stalled.
Meanwhile, hundreds of email exchanges involving America's top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, were released via a freedom of information request and published by BuzzFeed and the Washington Post.
The emails from the first half of 2020 give an insight into Dr Fauci’s thinking at the beginning of the pandemic, and include correspondence with a wide range of people including academics, members of the public and Trump administration officials.
While most are back-and-forth engagements with people, they show that Dr Fauci did not give credence to the theory that coronavirus was leaked from a lab in China – a possibility that is now being considered by US investigators.
Currently the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Fauci has worked under six US presidents.