Kamala Harris unveils ‘Covid-19 Community Corps’ to battle vaccine misinformation

Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday unveiled the Biden administration’s newest weapon in battling the coronavirus pandemic: the Covid-19 Community Corps.

Speaking to a virtual gathering of over 275 religious, business, and other local leaders, Ms Harris charged the group with encouraging people to get their Covid shots.

“You are the people that folks on the ground know and rely on and have a history with,” the vice president said. “And when people are then making the decision to get vaccinated, they’re going to look to you.”

The Corps is a network of community organisations across the country, chosen for their ability to reach different segments of the US population. It includes unions, churches, health groups, veterans organisations, and even sports leagues like the NFL and NASCAR – all tasked with the same mission.

“The basic message, as of course we all know, is pretty straightforward: The vaccine is safe and it will save lives,” Ms Harris said, speaking alongside Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. “And so the Community Corps is about getting that message out as far and as wide as we possibly can.”

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The group faces an uphill climb. Almost a third of all Republicans have told surveys they won’t get vaccinated, apparently influenced by former president Donald Trump’s prolonged downplaying of the pandemic. Meanwhile, high percentages of Black and Hispanic Americans have said the same thing – even though they comprise some of the groups worst hurt by the pandemic.

Ms Harris acknowledged those difficulties as she addressed the group.

“Here’s the other truth that we must speak: In some communities, some of our hardest-hit communities, it’s too hard to access the vaccine or get information about it,” she said.

“We have to be honest that in some communities there’s a concern about getting vaccinated, some based on mistrust, based on history, some rooted in misinformation of which there is a lot out there, and we need your help to combat that.”

To combat that misinformation, the vice president said the Corps would be given access to the latest information and resources related to the vaccination drive. But the greatest resource, Ms Harris said, was the Corps members themselves.

“No matter the community,” she said, “trusted leaders are the best way to boost confidence.”

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