- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Biden administration on Thursday launched a vaccine-education campaign that links Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Ripa, Mark Cuban and other notable figures with doctors who can answer people’s questions about the COVID-19 shots.

The “We Can Do This: Live” series will feature online sessions in which health professionals and scientists field questions alongside “prominent influencers” and organizations with large social media followings.

The Department of Health and Human Services said the campaign is based on research that shows people resistant to the vaccines want to hear about their safety or side effects from doctors instead of being browbeaten by government officials to roll up their sleeves.

Among others, participants include NASCAR, the NBA and WNBA along with actress Eva Longoria, political strategist Ana Navarro and Walter Kim, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The effort comes as the administration faces a pivot in the rollout. States are trying to get shots into everyone 16 and older instead of moving carefully through priority groups, meaning hesitancy will be the main impediment to reaching sufficient immunity to wrangle the virus.

The one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is suffering from production issues and has been linked to reports of rare blood clots in several recipients, exacerbating the challenge.

The U.S. is administering about 2.8 million COVID-19 shots per day, a decrease from the 3 million-plus average earlier in the month. 

The slowdown coincides with a pause in the J&J version, but alternatives from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are the dominant options, and there have been reports of lagging demand in some regions or a lack of interest among young people who don’t feel COVID-19 is a threat to them.

Mr. Biden on Wednesday unveiled a tax credit for companies that offer paid sick leave to people who seek a shot while urging younger to do their part by getting shots to tamp down transmission in their neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are meeting Friday to debate the halt in J&J’s version amid the blood-clotting reports. The panel can either extend the pause or figure out a set of recommendations that will help regulators restart the rollout.

“I believe It is really important to make a swift decision, as I believe does the [Food and Drug Administration]. So we’ll see what they have to say and be forward with the guidance soon thereafter,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told NBC’s “Today Show.”

Asked if she feels a sense of urgency around the J&J option, Dr. Walensky said: “I do.”

“We need to make a decision quickly, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to use the vaccine soon,” she said.

The administration recently put J&J in charge of a Baltimore plant after workers conflated ingredients for the vaccine with ones for the AstraZeneca vaccine, potentially spoiling up to 15 million doses.

The move sidelined Emergent BioSolutions, which had run the plant and was the subject of another unflattering inspection report this month that faulted employee training, cleaning procedures and other aspects of operations.

J&J and the FDA are working on the problems so the plant can be cleared to churn out doses. The ones that were used in the U.S. were produced overseas.

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