President Biden’s medical adviser and best-known advocate of coronavirus vaccination joined D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Juneteenth drive to encourage D.C. residents east of the Anacostia River to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined Bowser on June 19 to help launch from a southeast D.C. parking lot a drive to encourage District residents east of the Anacostia River to boost D.C.’s vaccination rate.

Before canvassing neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8, Fauci addressed dozens of volunteers for the third DC COVID-19 Community Corps Day of Action in the parking lot at Kramer Middle School in Southeast. He said while the District’s vaccination rate for adults who have gotten at least one shot surpasses 70%, more residents need to be inoculated.

“I am a national figure but it is you who are the trusted messengers,” Fauci said. “We can control this virus that has killed over 600,000 people but we need people to be vaccinated. The people know you. They trust you. Please encourage them to be vaccinated so we can get back to normal.”

Despite having met President Biden’s goal of 70% of adults having at least one vaccination shot by July 4, the District has to deal with a stark racial disparity in terms of the coronavirus. The District’s population hovers at 46% Black but African Americans make up 80% of coronavirus deaths and cases.

D.C. Department of Health statistics reveal for the months of April and May, predominantly Black Wards 5, 8 and 7 had 16, 13 and 11 virus-related deaths respectively while predominantly white Wards 3 and 2 had two deaths and one, in that order. One of Bowser’s strategies to get residents immunized consists of the Day of Action where residents encourage their neighbors to get immunized at a nearby site.

Bowser praised Fauci’s work on combating the coronavirus.

“Dr. Fauci is one of us, he is a District resident,” the mayor said. “He has been a willing partner with me and my team as we seek to destroy this virus.”

Last week, Bowser announced anyone vaccinated at selected sites throughout the District will get a $51 Visa gift card and people inoculated at Anacostia High School on June 19 will be eligible for a pair of roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the U.S. and abroad on American Airlines.

Bowser also said residents who get vaccinated at Anacostia, the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center and the Ron Brown School for the next four weeks are eligible for such prizes as a 2021 Ford Escape Sport SE Hybrid, a 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited, $10,000 for groceries for one year, a year of free Metro bus and train passes.

After the speeches, Bowser and Fauci walked with several volunteers to the blocks east of Kramer for their canvassing. As they walked by, residents Laura Washington and Nina Johnson watched from a  perch on their apartment building’s front steps.

Johnson said she won’t get vaccinated.

“I don’t plan on being America’s guinea pig,” she said. “I don’t believe in the vaccines. I have heard of people getting vaccinated and dying. I also know someone who got the Pfizer vaccine and was sick for three days. I don’t think it is worth it.”

Washington said she didn’t want to get vaccinated with either but praised Bowser for her efforts.

“I think it is great that she came here,” Washington said. “I wish we could have all of her people here when someone gets killed.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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