South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday directed state health officials to prohibit any unsolicited door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination efforts, arguing that showing up unannounced at individuals’ homes and “pressuring” them to get inoculated was bad policy and could lead to “disastrous public safety consequences.”
“The prospect of government vaccination teams showing up unannounced or unrequested at the door of ‘targeted’ homeowners or on their property will further deteriorate the public’s trust and could lead to potentially disastrous public safety consequences,” McMaster wrote in a letter to state Department of Health and Environmental Control board Chairman Mark Elam.
The governor’s request that the board of South Carolina’s health agency issue a mandate prohibiting agency leadership and state and local health-care organizations from going house-to-house to promote vaccinations comes days after President Joe Biden called for a national door-to-door vaccine push as nationwide inoculation rates dwindle.
In his letter to Elam, McMaster invoked Biden’s proposal, calling it bad policy and saying that South Carolinians already had been provided access to all available information about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as access to the vaccine itself.
“A South Carolinian’s decision to get vaccinated is a personal one for them to make and not the government’s,” McMaster wrote. “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.”
A DHEC spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McMaster’s statements or the impact adopting his directive could have on South Carolina’s flagging vaccination rates.
The state already has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with just 43% of eligible residents fully vaccinated, and health officials have been sounding the alarm that a coronavirus outbreak could be on the horizon if more people don’t start rolling up their sleeves.
Earlier this week, DHEC released the preliminary results of a statewide analysis that found more than 94% of new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in unvaccinated people, and that no one who had been fully vaccinated had died of coronavirus complications over the two-week period the agency sampled.
“The overwhelming majority of people who are continuing to get COVID-19 and who are getting hospitalized and dying from this disease are those who are not fully vaccinated,” assistant state epidemiologist Jane Kelly said Wednesday. “I can’t think of a more impactful point to make that would encourage someone who hasn’t yet received their shots to do so right away.”
McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said Friday that the governor takes no issue with DHEC or state and local health organizations providing ample access to the vaccine, including through mobile health clinics at parks or community centers, but draws the line at knocking on residents’ doors.
The governor’s opposition to door-knocking for vaccinations comes on the heels of statements by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, who on Wednesday tweeted that sending federal government workers door-to-door to compel vaccinations would not be welcome in Missouri. Both McMaster and Parson are Republicans.