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Online reports mislead on vaccination door-knocking efforts

July 14, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: President Joe Biden’s administration introduced a door-to-door campaign to offer COVID-19 vaccines as a way to confiscate guns or Bibles.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The door-to-door vaccination initiative aids states to enlist local officials and volunteers to provide information about COVID-19 vaccines as well as shots in areas where people haven’t yet been vaccinated.

THE FACTS: To drive up vaccination rates, the Biden administration called for a door-to-door campaign to encourage vaccination against COVID-19.

Despite the delta variant of the coronavirus surging, only 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and many parts of the country are lagging behind.

“Now we need to go to community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oftentimes, door-to-door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people” who need to be vaccinated, Biden said on July 6.

A range of false information has circulated on social media around the effort. Some posts say the campaign would force vaccines on people while others suggest the Biden administration’s initiative has a hidden agenda that will lead to guns or Bibles being confiscated.

“The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you’re vaccinated,” Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted. “What’s next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?”

North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn echoed claims that the door-to-door vaccine program could lead to gun confiscation during the Conservative Political Action Conference last week.

“Think about the mechanisms they would have to build to be able to actually execute that massive of a thing,” Cawthorn said. “And then think about what those mechanisms could be used for. They could then go door to door and take your guns. They could go door to door and take your Bibles.”

But the vaccine campaign relies on local officials, private sector workers and volunteers, not federal workers. Local volunteers go into areas where there are lower vaccination rates and provide information on where to access the vaccine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki countered some of the false claims in a press conference on July 9. “This is grassroots volunteers, this is members of the clergy, these are volunteers who believe that people across the country, especially in low-vaccinated areas, should have accurate information, should have information about where they can get vaccinated, where they can save their own lives and their neighbors’ lives and their family members’ lives,” Psaki said.

An example of this approach is playing out in North Carolina, where local teams are going door-to-door to help people get vaccinated.

“We are employing numerous outreach strategies – including door knocking – across the state to ensure that people have the information that they need about vaccinations and can easily and conveniently get vaccinated,” Bailey Pennington, a spokesperson with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services told the AP in an email.

“Healthier Together,” a partnership between North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and NC Counts Coalition, receives federal funding to tackle vaccine access. Healthier Together has outreach efforts that include reaching historically marginalized groups through door knocking, to help people schedule vaccine appointments and get their second dose appointment, Pennington said.

The grassroots component of the U.S. vaccination campaign has been in operation since April, when supplies of shots began outpacing demand. It was outlined and funded by Congress in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March, The Associated Press reported.

Furthermore, federal law prohibits creating a national gun registry.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with Facebook and other platforms to add context to misleading content and reduce its circulation online.