WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is kicking off a series of meetings Monday with leaders from communities with high levels of skepticism about getting the coronavirus vaccine as multiple administration officials say the White House is preparing to unveil its much-anticipated campaign next month aimed at building confidence and dispelling doubts.
The meetings, which will be led by the chair of the administration’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, Marcella Nunez-Smith, also will focus on ways to make getting the vaccine easier by resolving issues such as unpaid time off from work and access to transportation. The first meeting on Monday will be with Black community leaders, the administration official said, followed by others with Latino groups, faith leaders and Americans in rural communities.
“To defeat this pandemic, we must reach all people, from all backgrounds and communities with the lifesaving vaccines that are going to help them protect themselves and their friends and families from this deadly virus,” Nunez-Smith said in a statement. “These listening sessions will further our work to hear directly from those communities who have been hit hardest by this pandemic and help us build strong partnerships with those who will be key to our efforts to build vaccine confidence and reach everyone in our response.”
Also on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to begin a three-day National Forum on Vaccines with medical personnel “to discuss practical strategies, technical resources, and best practices for vaccination efforts.”
Multiple administration officials said the goal is to roll out the administration’s widespread vaccine confidence campaign in March, though no final decision has been made and details are still being worked out. They said that within the broad, national effort there will be specific messaging for communities that are particularly vulnerable to the virus or have a high prevalence of vaccine hesitancy.
“It’s nationwide in scope but also targeted to communities,” one senior administration official said. “It’s a big undertaking.”
The campaign is expected to have a similar scope to a presidential campaign — an overarching national message as well as targeted outreach to specific communities on the ground that would enlist local officials, doctors and faith leaders acting as validators for vaccine safety, officials said. The idea is to convey the message not just from well-known political figures, celebrities and high-profile organizations but also churches and community leaders, officials said.
Another senior administration official described planning for the public campaign as in the “homestretch.” And while one of the officials said the goal for a roll out is early March, other officials cautioned the timing is likely later.
Officials also stressed the timing of the campaign is contingent, at least in part, on the availability of the vaccine, noting that it wouldn’t make sense to encourage Americans to take it while there’s still a lack of vaccine supply in many parts of the country.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently said the administration’s public, vaccine confidence-building campaign would be “massive” and designed to ensure “we’re making sure that the American people know it’s safe.”
NBC News previously reported that in lieu of the larger vaccine confidence campaign, which has in part been complicated by insufficient supplies of the vaccine to meet demand, the administration has been tailoring a smaller effort to communities where people may be skeptical of taking the shots.
The administration has explored ideas for reaching diverse audiences, including potentially through sports organizations such as NASCAR and the NFL, and how businesses might help by, for instance, agreeing to give employees time off to receive the vaccine.