Harris kicks off tour of Southern states to boost vaccination rates

(GREENVILLE, S.C.) — Three weeks out from President Joe Biden’s deadline to have 70% of adult Americans vaccinated from COVID-19, Vice President Kamala Harris hit the road Monday in an effort to boost lagging vaccination rates across the Southern U.S. — and as experts warn of the increased risk of the delta variant taking over.

The vice president’s first stop Monday in Greenville, South Carolina, comes on the same day the U.S. is expected to cross 600,000 deaths from the virus.

Her upcoming stops across the South are meant to combat the region having the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia are among the bottom of the list, with fewer than 45% of adults fully vaccinated. The Northeast, conversely, is leading the country in getting shots in arms, so isn’t expected to get a visit from the vice president.

“South Carolina, we need you to urge everyone you know, to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated, let everyone know. It’s for yourself. It’s for your family. It’s for your community,” she said in remarks Monday at a COVID-19 vaccination mobilization event.

“Americans love our neighbor, and in a perfect strangers’ face, we see a friend,” Harris continued to the audience of under 200. “That’s who we are we are at our best, and for that reason alone, Americans are going to keep getting vaccinated.”

Later, Harris is visiting a local YMCA converted into a pop-up vaccination clinic. On Friday, she’s scheduled to travel to Atlanta to continue the tour.

So far, 64.4% of adult Americans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And of the entire U.S. population, 43.4% of Americans are fully vaccinated.

Earlier this month, Biden pitched the “We Can Do This” vaccination tour, led by the vice president, as part of the administration’s “National Month of Action” which Biden branded an “all-of-America sprint” to get more Americans vaccinated by Independence Day to pave the way for, what he called, “a summer of freedom.”

“All over the world, people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drugstore at no cost, with no wait,” Biden said, with Harris looking on behind him.

The White House says the tour, anchored in the South, is intended to “highlight the ease of getting vaccinated, encourage vaccinations, and energize and mobilize grassroots vaccine education and outreach efforts.”

First lady Jill Biden, second gentlemen Douglass Emhoff and other Cabinet officials are also expected to join in events this month.

Later Monday, Harris is closing her day in Greenville with a conversation on voting rights with community leaders. The event is closed to the press and comes as Congress weighs nationwide voting reforms and as Democrats warn that Republicans are restricting voting rights across the country through bills in state legislatures.

In her earlier remarks, Harris acknowledged there are barriers keeping many who may want to get vaccinated from getting a shot and tried to offer solutions to counter those, such as the White House partnering with ride share apps for free trips to vaccine sites, child care providers for services during appointments, and several companies to offer time off to employees to recover from the shot.

As of last month, all American adults are eligible for vaccines, and three have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use.

Unvaccinated Americans are still leaving tens of millions of unused doses with governors in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio lamenting on what to do with the extra doses set to expire.

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