GREENVILLE, S.C. - Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in South Carolina on Monday as part of the Biden administration’s nationwide effort to promote its ongoing coronavirus vaccination campaign ahead of the July 4 holiday.
Harris landed in Greenville and spoke at a COVID-19 vaccine mobilization event at the Phillis Wheatley Community Center. Speaking to a crowd of more than 150 people, she stressed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines amid vaccine skepticism and waning demand for the shots.
"The vaccines — let me say it again — are safe. They are safe. And they are free. And they are effective. And it is that simple," Harris told the crowd. "If you are vaccinated, you are protected. If your community is vaccinated, COVID rates in your community will go down."
The visit marks the launch of a national vaccination tour, part of the White House’s "national month of action" aimed at encouraging more Americans to get vaccinated before Independence Day.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at a COVID vaccination mobilization event at the Phillis Wheatley Community Center June 14, 2021, in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden has set a goal for 70% of U.S. adults to have received at least one dose of a vaccine by the American holiday. Currently, 64.4% of Americans age 18 and up have received at least one dose while 54% are fully vaccinated, according to data shared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the U.S. has faced challenges in appealing to those who have still not received them. The country hit a high of about 3.3 million injections per day on average in mid-April, according to the CDC. That number was down to about 870,000 a day on average in early June.
The South has been home to some of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the country. According to an analysis last month by The Associated Press of data provided by the CDC, eight Southern states were in the bottom 10, all of which are under 40%. Mississippi was last at 32%, followed by Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming, Idaho, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, West Virginia and South Carolina.
Harris, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, will be making stops in several Southern states this week. Regan plans to make Tuesday stops in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. Harris will visit Atlanta on Friday.
In addition to the vaccination tour, the Biden administration’s month of action includes an early summer sprint of incentives and a slew of new steps to ease barriers and make the vaccines more appealing. Harris on Monday said some of those efforts include partnering with rideshare services to offer free rides to vaccine sites, having pharmacies across the country that are open 24 hours a day and working with childcare facilities to offer free childcare as people get vaccinated and recover from their side effects.
"Americans care for one another. Americans love our neighbor and in a perfect stranger’s face we see a friend — that’s who we are when we are at our best," Harris said. "And for that reason alone, Americans are going to keep getting vaccinated."
The vice president’s visit also coincides with the state’s "COVID-19 Vaccine Action Week." South Carolina health officials are making a concentrated push to get state residents rapidly vaccinated, offering walk-in events at rural health clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and even breweries in the coming days.
South Carolina NAACP leaders and public health officials joined Harris at the community center Monday, decrying how few people in Greenville had received their shots so far.
Less than 39% of South Carolina's population was fully vaccinated as of last week, according to the state health department.
On a national level, the White House also teamed up with McDonald’s to encourage vaccination via a new design on McCafe cups. Anheuser-Busch announced a promotional giveaway earlier this month, saying it will "buy Americans 21+ a round of beer" once Biden’s 70% goal is met.
Furthermore, the administration is launching a new partnership to bring vaccine education and even doses to more than a thousand Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons, building on a successful pilot program in Maryland.
Meanwhile, the lengths to which the U.S. is resorting to convince Americans to get vaccinated stood in contrast to much of the world, where vaccines are far less plentiful. Facing a mounting U.S. surplus, the Biden administration has promised the U.S. would donate 500 million doses to help speed the pandemic’s end — on top of 80 million doses he has already pledged by the end of the month.
Biden called on global leaders to do the same in sharing their vaccine supply with struggling nations. He argued it was in both America's interests and the world's to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere.
"We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners," Biden said last week in England before the G-7 summit.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.