Vice President Kamala Harris came to Greenville on Monday to kick off a multi-state tour as part the Biden administration’s push to get 70% of adults in the U.S. with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 4.
Currently only 46% of South Carolina’s residents have received at least one dose, and just 38.9% of South Carolinians are fully vaccinated — one of the lowest rates in the country.
The vice president’s visit to the Palmetto State comes as vaccination rates have slowed down nationwide. A total of 64% of American adults have had at least one dose.
Harris first visited the Phillis Wheatley Community Center COVID vaccination mobilization event and then went to a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine site at the YMCA of Greenville.
“The vaccines are safe and they are free and they are effective and it’s that simple,” Harris said during her first stop to the crowd of about 170 volunteers who are canvasing neighborhoods to help people get vaccinated. “If you are vaccinated, you are protected. If you are vaccinated, covid rates in your community will go down.”
During Harris’ remarks, she gave kudos to companies such as Dollar General, Best Buy and Starbucks for offering paid time off for people to get a vaccine, Uber and Lyft for offering free rides to vaccine clinics, and organizations such as the YMCA for offering free child care while people are getting a shot.
Harris’ message to encourage people to get past vaccine hesitancy included that the vaccines have been developed during decades of research into the coronavirus to counter the message that they have been rushed to market.
“There’s a number of people who haven’t said they’re not going to get it, but haven’t made the decision to get it,” Harris said during her stop at the YMCA in Greenville.
South Carolina also lags in vaccinating Black residents, a population disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fifty percent of deaths from COVID is among Blacks,” said J.M. Flemming, NAACP Greenville president. We only make up 27% of the population. The outbreaks are here, COVID is here.”
Harris’ visit to the upstate site is her first visit to South Carolina since she dropped out of the Democratic presidential nominating contest in 2020.
“It’s good to be back in South Carolina,” Harris said as she got off Air Force Two at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.
South Carolina’s more populous counties, especially along the coast, have higher vaccination rates than rural counties, according to state Department of Health and Environmental Control data.
State Epidemiologist Linda Bell, who has been the face for the state’s COVID response, spoke at the event ahead of Harris to dispel myths about the vaccines that are available.
“The vaccine is safe and effective and is your best bet you won’t suffer from those short- and long-term effects of COVID,” Bell said.
South Carolina lawmakers have been reluctant to adopt cash incentives, such as a lottery, to encourage people to receive the vaccine. Instead, DHEC has partnered with the South Carolina Brewers Guild to award anyone who gets a COVID-19 shot at select breweries across the state with a free beer or soda.
Along the route to the Phillis Wheatley Community Center, both Trump supporters and Biden-Harris supporters lined the street on opposite sides.
Harris supporters waved, while one Trump supporter had a “Trump Won” sign, another had a sign that read “election integrity,’ and one person had a sign saying Harris should be focusing the crisis at the southern border.