White House Announces ‘National Month of Action’ To Promote COVID-19 Vaccinations; Partners With Black-Owned Barbershops To Reach Minority Communities

With just over 63% of the country nationwide at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, President Biden has stepped up efforts to push that number over 70% before the end of the month. 

Tyler Pager, Lena H. Sun and John Wagner of The Washington Post reported that by declaring June a “national month of action,” the Biden administration “wants to incentivize Americans who are hesitant about getting vaccinated with a range of perks.”

According to the Washington Post, “the White House also announced the launch of a handful of community-based outreach initiatives, including blanketing local media, providing colleges with resources and launching an effort to recruit 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons across the country.”

The increased push for vaccinations over the next month comes as demand for vaccines has begun to decrease, and the remaining unvaccinated people have become harder to reach and convince to get the shot.

Biden focused in on that message intently during his announcement, saying, “For all the progress we’re making as a country, if you are unvaccinated, you are still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying or spreading disease to others, especially when Americans spend more time indoors again, closely gathered in the fall.”

“We need everyone across the country to pull together to get us over the finish line,” Biden said. 

With conservative Republicans among the groups least likely to already be vaccinated, he also pointed out that both Democrats and Republicans stand behind vaccination efforts.

“Getting the vaccine is not a partisan act,” Biden said. “The science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. Matter of fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican president.”

The Washington Post reported that some of the private-sector enticements to promote COVID-19 vaccinations include: “a CVS-run sweepstakes to win free cruises, tickets to Super Bowl LVI and cash prizes; gift cards from DoorDash; free tickets to Major League Baseball games for those vaccinated at stadiums; Xboxes distributed by Microsoft through Boys and Girls Clubs in hard-hit areas; free groceries from Kroger; and a sweepstakes run by United Airlines to win a year of free flights.”

Alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch also announced that the company would give away free beer “if the country reaches Biden’s 70% goal.”

“Get a shot and have a beer,” Biden said, referencing the company’s involvement in the initiative.

In addition to the numerous promised freebies, Vice Present Kamala Harris is set to lead a “We Can Do This” national tour through the South — where vaccination rates are among the country’s lowest — to promote the importance of getting vaccinated. 

“Four of the nation’s largest child-care providers will offer free child care to all parents and caregivers getting vaccinated or recovering from vaccination from now until July 4,” The Washington Post reported.

Elsewhere, in an effort to reach communities of color, more than 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and salons will be invited to participate in “Shots at the Shop,” where community members will be able to get vaccinated in local shops they already frequent and are familiar with.

Cameron Webb, a senior health equity adviser for the Biden administration, said the program is designed to acknowledge “the critical role barbershops and beauty salons play in these communities [hardest] hit by the pandemic.”

Webb said that “barbershops in any community will be able to apply to participate in the new program, but priority will be given to those in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lowest” — including places such as Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Birmingham, Alabama.

Reed Tuckson, a former D.C. health director and founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID-19, told The Washington Post that the effort over the next month to get as many additional people vaccinated as possible couldn’t be more important, saying the U.S. is at a “very, very critical stage.” 

“Those who were eager to get vaccinated have already done so,” Tuckson said. “But [we need] to close out those still waiting, those who still have questions and another group that is really digging in [to avoid vaccination].”

Calling the Biden administration’s efforts “very appropriate,” he added that “we cannot overemphasize enough how this is a true race to the finish before [COVID-19] variants take root. This is the moment to pour everything we have into it.”

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.