In theory, public-officials wouldn't need to get creative while encouraging Americans to get vaccinated. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of millions, and in the United States, vaccines are free, safe, and readily available. The recipe for success couldn't be much easier.
But in practice, there's still a chunk of the population that won't roll up their sleeves. Officials have come up with all kinds of enticements intended to coax Americans into doing the obvious thing, but some won't budge -- despite the fact that an even-more-dangerous variant of the virus is spreading.
Desperate to save lives and prevent additional tragedies, President Biden made the case this week for renewed outreach: "[W]e need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door -- literally knocking on doors -- to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus."
The comments hardly seemed controversial. Officials now believe the most effective outreach doesn't come from celebrities, but rather, from trusted local leaders, neighbors, and family physicians making direct pitches to holdouts. This simple realization is at the heart of the administration's plan to identify areas with low vaccination rates and make a new, concerted effort.
You can probably guess what happened next. A Washington Post analysis explained this morning:
Republican members of Congress and conservative talkers have wrongly pitched the effort as forced vaccination — even repeatedly invoking the Nazis — and lodged baseless suggestions that it would be done using illegally obtained medical information. Others have suggested it's something akin to government coercion or even a precursor to gun confiscation.
In Missouri, for example, less than half the state has been vaccinated, and COVID is taking an increasingly severe toll, especially in the southwest part of the state. Federal epidemiological officials arrived this week -- at Missouri's request -- in the hopes of stemming the tide.
It was against this backdrop that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) wrote on Twitter, "I have directed our health department to tell the federal government that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR welcome strategy in Missouri!"
In reality, there is no initiative to send sending government agents to homes to "compel" vaccinations -- a point the Republican governor really ought to be aware of -- but Parson published the missive anyway.
Others in his party went further. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) equated the outreach to Nazism, which is obviously insane. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) suggested the outreach would be based on private medical information, which isn't true, either.
There is real work to do to protect the public from a deadly virus, and Biden appears focused on responsible governing. It's a shame so many Republicans are invested in the opposite.