The issue has been the subject of several high-level talks between administration advisers and health experts, even at the presidential level, officials said.
Conservatives will now be one of the main target audiences for a massive public relations campaign that could begin as early as next week, officials said. And the administration, through its partners, has been working with NASCAR, country music organizations and various rural organizations in confidence efforts in vaccines aimed at conservative eyes and ears.
The push to convince people who did not vote for Biden to get vaccinated highlights the difficulty of navigating the full politics of the pandemic. The vaccine joins masks, social distancing, and blockades as a health measure that divides Americans by party, largely fueled by conservative media distortions.
The former president’s comments caught the attention of White House officials, who had been working to devise ways to increase vaccine confidence in a population where they acknowledge they maintain little influence. Among Biden’s advisers, there is the assumption that involving Trump in promoting the vaccine would inevitably require giving him credit for helping him develop products quickly when he was president, something he has longed for since he left office.
A day before Trump’s comments, Biden’s press secretary suggested he should not require a “recorded invitation” to promote the vaccine. And Biden himself downplayed the effect Trump could have on convincing his supporters to get vaccinated.
“What has more impact than anything Trump would say to the people at MAGA is what local doctors, local preachers, what community people say,” Biden told reporters.
The president reflected, in part, the findings of a focus group led by Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist who convened 19 Trump voters over the weekend. The session was designed to test vaccine messaging strategies.
Inside the White House, officials took note of the focus group’s findings, which included a hands-on demonstration of who would be most influential in whether participants choose to get the vaccine. They all said their own doctors would maintain more influence than Trump.
“Trump’s involvement will help,” Luntz told CNN on Friday. “It should have arrived four months ago, five months ago. It should have come back in November, December and January, better late than never. But there are arguments that work even better than that.”
“When it comes to the local doctor (your doctor), this is more credible than any politician than any government agency than Dr. Fauci than anyone,” he said.
Initially, White House efforts to combat vaccine vaccination focused on minority populations, which have shown higher levels of reluctance in some surveys. But officials have realized in recent weeks that Conservatives and Republicans will require similar efforts, which will lead to adjustments in strategy.
The White House has been in close coordination with COVID Collaborative, a bipartisan association of policy experts and leaders, which has focused its attention on increasing public confidence in coronavirus vaccines.
John Bridgeland, co-founder and CEO of the group, said White House officials began contacting his organization to discuss and align with the strategy and messages to conservatives across the country as soon as possible. they began to point to a large amount of data that pointed to conservatives as the most hesitant of the vaccine. constituency. Since then, Bridgeland has been in contact with the White House several times a week.
“They’ve been anxious about it because they know they can’t get the herd’s immunity without it,” said Bridgeland, who served as director of the Home Affairs Council under President George W. Bush. “They recognize that they are not perfectly positioned to reach out to conservatives and Republicans, and so we have coordinated very closely.”
Bridgeland said his group has helped the White House with a key part of its outreach to conservatives: arming trusted local leaders (including doctors, religious leaders and others) with facts about vaccine safety and effectiveness. .
The COVID Collaborative will announce new partnerships with sports and religious groups in an attempt to reach out to conservatives and will also send former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on a media tour across the country. The former Republican presidential candidate previously handed a public mea culpa for not wearing a mask at a Trump Rose Garden ceremony before being hospitalized with Covid-19.
The advertising campaign will premiere in the coming weeks. It is expected to include commercials on television, radio, and the Internet, and to try to have conservatives as one of its main focuses, although people of color and young Americans will also be targeted.
The exact timing of the campaign launch is still being determined and officials said they were very much in tune with not starting the campaign until there were enough doses available for people who wanted it.
The exact appearance of these ads has been kept close and one person says non-disclosure agreements were signed in the production of the same. But officials said they wanted to focus beyond “celebrities getting shot” at home, more closely on trusted messengers, such as religious leaders and doctors.
According to officials, there will still be some celebrities, though they will only be part of the broader strategy of using voices that have meaning for people skeptical of the vaccine.
“I think all of this helps marginally,” Andy Slavitt, Biden’s senior advisor for Covid-19’s response, told CNN. “What people, especially conservatives, say is that they don’t want an authority to try to convince them to get the vaccine. What they want is not that different from what other people want, which is that they have a number of questions. and they don’t want to feel like they’re being manipulated. “
The administration is confident that another aspect of the vaccine will be more influential: sending money to local communities to produce their own materials with trusted voices in their cities and states.
The upcoming White House vaccination campaign will include “considerable efforts” to “microrientate” communities of people suffering from hesitation and access problems, said a White House official, who stressed that the efforts of the White House The administration will not only focus on people who are skeptical of vaccines, but also those who are reluctant to be vaccinated because they consider it an inconvenience and those who cannot easily access vaccination sites.
That is why the White House plans to pair its confidence efforts in the vaccine with the continued expansion of mobile vaccination clinics and the use of community health centers to target more hard-to-reach populations, including rural Americans, many of whom voted for Trump. The administration also plans to send funding to organizations that can better reach certain audiences.
The White House has already deployed – and plans to continue using – Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, who also served in the Trump administration, to speak to a conservative religious audience. Collins is an evangelical Christian and made several appearances on the Christian Broadcasting Network and its “The 700 Club” program.
Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert, who has taken a prominent place in the Biden administration, also met this week with evangelical leaders to discuss vaccination efforts.
Ultimately, officials said they had high hopes that once again Americans would be vaccinated, proving their safety, that skeptics would abandon their suspicions.
“Vaccines tell a great story,” Slavitt said. “Just getting this information out to people is important.”
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