First Lady Jill Biden is scheduled to visit COVID-19 vaccine sites in the Orlando area and Tampa on Thursday, part of a nationwide tour to reach Americans who haven’t been vaccinated yet.
She’s expected to visit a drive-through vaccine site at Osceola Community Health Services in Kissimmee, and later attend a vaccination event in Tampa, hosted by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With President Joe Biden short of his goal of 70 percent of adults in the nation receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, White House officials and others are redoubling efforts to get shots in the arms.
It’s a struggle because of vaccine hesitancy: People from communities of color, conservative communities and younger people ages 18 to 26 have been skeptical about getting vaccines, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this week.
Ahmed Forehand, 33, is Black man and a licensed practical nurse who lives in Orlando, and he too is skeptical.
“It’s not enough research, in my opinion. The vaccines for COVID were unveiled pretty fast and we don’t know the long-term effects,” said Forehand.
NextGen America, an organization comprising young people, announced an initiative in May to text one million Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 about how to receive the vaccines in their communities.
To reach the 1 million text goal, the group will likely continue the program through June, according to a press release.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 169 million adults ages 18 and older, or 65.6 percent, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Overall, 56.1 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
White House officials said Tuesday that the Biden administration has met the goal of 70 percent of Americans 30 and older getting at least one vaccine dose, which is different from the goal of 70 percent of adults in the nation receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4.
“What we also know…is that there are demographic groups and sometimes populations where it’s more difficult to reach,” said White House Press Secretary Psaki. “We are redoubling our efforts to ensure we are targeting and we are making vaccines more accessible to those age groups.”
Psaki also responded to a reporter’s question during a press conference about the vaccine goal: “We don’t see it exactly like something went wrong. How we see it is: we set a bold, ambitious goal. We are expected to meet that goal just a couple of weeks after July 4.”
Meanwhile, State Rep. Nicholas Duran, a Democrat representing part of Miami-Dade County, questioned Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ leadership in getting residents vaccinated.
“The governor’s messaging on increasing vaccinations has been either nonexistent or confusing and it is clear this just is not a top priority for his administration,” Duran said.
“It is my hope that the Governor will get serious about his outreach to these communities so that Florida’s economy can continue to recover from this pandemic and our state’s seniors remain protected.”
CDC data show that Florida’s vaccine figures are slightly below average for the nation. For Florida residents 18 years an older, 63.5 percent have gotten at least one vaccine dose. Overall, 53.8 percent are fully vaccinated.
Florida Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report.