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Federal, State Officials Say Creativity Is Needed To Increase Vaccination Rate

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the effort to vaccinate as many Americans as possible for COVID-19 - and at this stage in the game, states and the federal government say they need to get creative about this. Here's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In Maine, they've succeeded at vaccinating a large share of residents. But to get to those who remain, Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, says they're offering vouchers for free stuff.

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JANET MILLS: To get free tickets to a ballgame or a race event, a free fishing license or hunting license or a gift card for outdoor gear - we're calling this your shot to get outdoors.

KEITH: Mills was one of six governors to join President Biden for a web streamed event to talk about what's been working for them. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, said his state is into what he calls the ground game.

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MIKE DEWINE: We have some health departments literally out knocking on doors. We have mobile clinics going around. And we want to reach people exactly where they are.

KEITH: Free rides on Uber and Lyft, mobile clinics, walk-up shots, vaccines in churches and bars - making it easy is now the strategy. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, said it's important not to assume people are hesitant or ideologically opposed.

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TIM WALZ: And my message to folks there is there's a lot of good reasons to get vaccinated. But for some of them, you know, if you need another one, go get vaccinated so you're alive to vote against me in the next election. I don't care.

(LAUGHTER)

WALZ: I just want to get it done.

KEITH: These sorts of controlled White House events tend to accentuate the positive. But one governor did come with an ask, Utah's Spencer Cox, a Republican.

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SPENCER COX: And that's one area where we could use some help from the White House and others. And that is modeling what a fully vaccinated person can do. We have fully vaccinated people. We should start acting like it.

KEITH: He said it could help sell the idea of getting vaccinated. And Biden agreed.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think you're going to see a more aggressive effort on our part to lay out that once vaccinated, it's not only you can hug your grandchildren, you can do a lot more, and whether or not you have to have, even at some point soon, masks inside versus outside.

KEITH: Biden acknowledged that thus far, the administration has been cautious.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.