Touting mobile clinics, incentives like free sports tickets and fishing licenses, and other efforts to reach people not yet vaccinated against COVID-19, a handful of governors who joined President Biden for a livestreamed call on Tuesday stressed the need to continually adapt vaccination strategies and to seek people out where they are.
Gov. Charlie Baker was among the participants.
"I guess I would say that I think the transportation issue is a big deal and the decision to include folks like Lyft and Uber in this can make a big difference," Baker said, joining the call from Polar Park ahead of an afternoon event marking the Worcester Red Sox home opener.
After Baker wrapped up his remarks, Biden told him, "You're doing a hell of a job."
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, said states need to be flexible as they shift their approaches from serving the "vaccine ecstatic" who got their shots early to the "vaccine busy" and "vaccine curious."
In Maine, where reaching rural communities presents a challenge, Democrat Gov. Janet Mills said people who get a first shot between now and Memorial Day can receive vouchers for gift cards to L.L. Bean, Portland Sea Dogs tickets or free fishing or hunting licenses.
"We're calling this Your Shot to Get Outdoors," Mills said. "It's corny, I know, but we know that people in Maine have found refuge and relief in Mother Nature throughout the pandemic."
During the call, Biden officially announced that Lyft and Uber will provide free rides to and from vaccine sites from May 24 through July 4 and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide additional supports for states' on-the-ground vaccine promotion efforts.
Governors Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tim Walz of Minnesota, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico also took part in the call.
Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont are the only three states in the country where over 70% of adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
"It's basically to talk about how to reach and deliver vaccines to either folks that are part of what we would call the hesitant community, or folks who are part of communities that are just hard to reach and need more help to get vaccinated," Baker said Monday afternoon, after touring the Manet Community Health Center vaccination site in Quincy, where they have vaccinated 26,000 people.
The initial rollout of the vaccine in Massachusetts was plagued with problems, from the lack of call center to field questions and help book appointments, to a website that couldn't handle the traffic from eager residents.
More recently, however, the state has featured at or near the top of all states with more than 5 million people in a variety of vaccine distribution metrics.
On Saturday, the White House's top COVID-19 advisor Andy Slavitt gave kudos to Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont for becoming the first three states with more than 70% of adult residents at least half-vaccinated.
Like Baker, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is a Republican, while Hawaii is governed by a Democrat — Gov. David Ige. Massachusetts has vaccinated 73% of its adult population and 60% of all residents with at least one dose.
With the state on track to reach its goal of 4.1 million people fully vaccinated by early June, Baker visited Quincy on Monday to highlight the role community health centers will play in reaching the remaining quarter of adults. Cynthia Sierra, the CEO of Manet, said the health center is experimenting with walk-ins, extended hours and mobile and pop-up clinics at basketball courts, high schools, food pantries and other locations.
This article was originally published on May 11, 2021.