Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra says that it is “absolutely the government’s business” to know which Americans have and have not been vaccinated for the coronavirus.
Becerra made the statement in response to the Biden administration’s announced door-to-door campaign to push more unvaccinated Americans to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
The U.S. government had spent “trillions of dollars to try to keep Americans alive during this pandemic,” he said. “So, it is absolutely the government’s business; it is the taxpayers’ business if we have to continue to spend money to try to keep people from contracting COVID and helping reopen the economy.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki echoed Becerra, saying that this week’s door-to-door push is crucial considering the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the virus.
Psaki explained that the door-to-door campaign would be targeting people in less vaccinated pockets throughout the country. She added that the federal government’s aim is to educate and inform, not mandate the vaccine.
States with higher populations of Republican voters have reported lower vaccination rates. According to polling, Republican voters are more likely than Democrats to say they are not likely to get the vaccine.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 56% of adults have been fully vaccinated, while 67% have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.
Becerra said that he hoped people would listen to the facts and that officials could dispel rumors about the vaccine.
Republicans push back
Amidst the administration’s push to get more Americans vaccinated, Becerra is facing criticism for comments he made about more aggressive measures that may be taken to vaccinate more people.
The health secretary said that he wanted people to have “as much freedom and choice as possible. We want to give people the sense that they have the freedom to choose.”
“But we hope they choose to live. We hope people make the right choices. We want them to have the right information, but we are America,” Becerra said. “We try to give people as much freedom and choice as possible, but when over 600,000 Americans have died, the best choice is to get vaccinated.”
The statement sparked a backlash, leading Becerra to later tweet:
“Some comments I made today are being taken wildly out of context. To be clear: the government has no database tracking who is vaccinated. We’re encouraging people to step up to protect themselves, others by getting vaccinated. It’s the best way to save lives and end this pandemic,” he wrote.
The Biden administration’s door-to-door push, as well as Becerra’s comments, have further heated up the debate between personal freedom and public health measures.
Critics of the vaccine push quickly slammed the administration’s initiative.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, reacted, saying, “How about don’t knock on my door. You’re not my parents. You’re the government. Make the vaccine available, and let people be free to choose. Why is that concept so hard for the left?”
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. warned that, “The government now wants to go door-to-door to convince you to get an ‘optional’ vaccine.”
And the governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster vehemently stated his constituent’s right to personal freedom.
“A South Carolinian’s decision to get vaccinated is a personal one for them to make and not the government’s,” he said.
“Enticing, coercing, intimidating mandating, or pressuring anyone to take the vaccine is a bad policy which will deteriorate the public’s trust and confidence in the State’s vaccination efforts.”