White House to use celebrities, athletes in ad campaign to combat Covid vaccine hesitancy

In this screengrab, Eva Longoria speaks at the 26th Annual Critics Choice Awards on March 07, 2021.

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The Biden administration on Thursday is launching a massive campaign to persuade more Americans to take the Covid-19 vaccines, administration officials told NBC News.

The campaign, called “We Can Do This: Live,” will target young people through social media and will include virtual events where celebrities and athletes answer Americans’ lingering questions about the vaccines, according to NBC News.

Famous people slated to participate in the campaign include actress Eva Longoria, Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire investor Mark Cuban, Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, the co-hosts of “Live with Kelly and Ryan” as well as people from NASCAR, the NBA and WNBA, according to NBC News.

The goal, according to a detailed release of the campaign obtained by NBC News, is to reach Americans, particularly young people, “directly in the places where they already consume content online, including social media, podcasts, YouTube, and more.”

The administration’s effort comes as polls suggest a significant portion of Americans will likely refuse to take the shots, potentially stalling the nation’s recovery from the pandemic that has killed at least 569,405 Americans in a little over a year.

Some young people appear resistant to getting vaccinated. A recent poll from STAT News-Harris found that 21% of Generation Z, or young adults aged 18 to 24, said they would not get vaccinated against Covid and another 34% said they would “wait a while and see” before getting vaccinated.

Additionally, some doctors said a number of their patients became skeptical of the vaccines after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration asked states last week to temporarily halt distribution of Johnson & Johnson‘s vaccine after six cases of a rare, but potentially deadly, blood-clotting disorder were reported.

Many of former President Donald Trump‘s supporters also are strongly opposed to taking the vaccine, experts on public health and politics say, which worries U.S. health officials hoping enough people will get immunized so the country can obtain herd immunity to the virus.

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously said 75% to 85% of the U.S. population need to be inoculated to create an “umbrella” of immunity that prevents the virus from spreading.

In some regions of the U.S., the supply of the vaccines is already outpacing demand as local health officials struggle to persuade people to get vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, more than 134 million Americans, or 40% of the total U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to data compiled by the CDC. Roughly 87.5 million Americans, or 26.4% of the total U.S. population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

The United States averaged 3 million reported shots per day over the past week, according to CDC, down slightly from a peak of 3.4 million reported shots per day on April 13.

Fauci said Monday that there would be a “full-court press” to get people vaccinated.

“It’s very disturbing that on the basis of political persuasion people are not wanting to get vaccinated,” Fauci said Monday on “CBS This Morning.” “I find that really extraordinary because those are the ones who are saying you’re encroaching on our liberties by asking us to wear masks and do kinds of restrictions that are public health issues. The easiest way to get out of that is to get vaccinated.”

–CNBC’s Nate Rattner and Rich Mendez contributed to this report.

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