South Carolina’s governor has called on the state’s health officials to ban any ‘door to door’ tactics that federal response teams might offer in an effort to boost vaccination coverage there.
“The prospect of government vaccination teams showing up unannounced or unrequested at the door of ‘targeted’ homeowners or on their property will further deteriorate the public’s trust and could lead to potentially disastrous public safety consequences,” Henry McMaster wrote in a letter dated July 9 to South Carolina’s Board of Health and Environmental Control.
The Republican governor asked the board to prohibit the use of any “targeted” or “door to door” tactics that might be used by the Biden administration’s “surge response teams”, which were announced earlier this month as a way to help communities with low vaccination rates that were experiencing, or were at high risk of, outbreaks of Covid-19, particularly those linked to the highly-transmissible Delta variant.
McMaster’s letter follows similar pushback from Missouri, a hotspot for the Delta strain in the US. Governor Mike Parson said this week that sending government employees door to door “to compel vaccination” would not be an effective or welcome strategy in Missouri.
In announcing the setting up of surge response teams, the White House’s coronavirus task force said last week these squads would help with a variety of tasks, including additional testing, contact tracing, providing therapeutics to treat those suffering from acute symptoms, plugging staff shortages at local testing or tracing operations, and leveraging the technical expertise and data analysis capabilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Joe Biden this month called for a renewed vaccination effort that would rely on volunteers like religious leaders, local medical staff and community organisations to help boost take-up rates.
“We need to go to community by community, neighbourhood by neighbourhood and, often times, door-to-door, literally knocking on doors to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus,” Biden said.
The remark drew criticism from some Republicans, who regarded it as government over-reach. Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus task force co-ordinator, hit back and said “for those individuals, organisations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterise this type of ‘trusted messenger’ work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country” and to the community figures who were working to “get people vaccinated, save lives, and help end this pandemic.”
South Carolina has fully vaccinated 39.3 per cent of its population, ranking it 39th among US states in terms of coverage, according to CDC data. The state has averaged about 4.3 new Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people a day over the past week. That is the 21st-highest rate in the country and compares to the national average of about 4.9.