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White House Touts Online Dating Plan to Push Covid Vaccine

With a non-zero amount of awkwardness, the Biden administration on Friday highlighted a new plan to encourage more people to get vaccinated: an effort by a number of popular dating apps that will encourage pent-up young singles to promote their vaccination status, as the promise of a maskless summer grows tantalizingly within reach.

“We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive: a vaccination,” Andy Slavitt, one of President Biden’s top coronavirus advisers, deadpanned during a virtual briefing for reporters. He later added, “In all seriousness, people are interested in other things in life besides their vaccine.”

Mr. Slavitt said that popular apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Hinge — along with a suite of others, including BLK and Chispa, that cater to daters in specific communities — will add new features designed to reach a population of young people who may have been largely isolated from each other during the course of the pandemic, and will promote the idea that getting a shot could help users get a date. Tinder plans to launch a “Vaccine Center” to help users find nearby vaccination sites.

Highlighting the work of technology companies that can reach Americans where they are — on their phones — has been a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat access and hesitancy, and remind people who have not yet received a shot that doing so could help the country emerge from the pandemic. Providers are administering about 1.83 million doses per day on average, about a 46 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13, according to federal data.

Earlier this month, the president said that Uber and Lyft, two of the country’s largest ride-sharing services, would provide free rides to vaccination sites beginning May 24 and through July 4.

Mr. Slavitt said on Friday that the dating apps effort, which could reach over 50 million people in the United States, was not an official partnership with the companies. But the White House played a significant role in rallying them to participate, said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to comment publicly about the effort.

Over a roughly two-week period of discussion about the changes with the app makers, White House officials talked to Tinder about adapting a popular program it used during the election that allowed users to attach stickers to their profiles if they registered to vote or voted early. By the time the White House called the company, it was already considering using vaccination markers and agreed to the addition immediately, the official said.

Most, if not all, of the apps are expected to use an honor system.

The official said that the White House had sought help from the companies because of their reach with younger adults — many of whom became eligible to get a shot last month and may not yet be fully vaccinated.

That group is also key to President Biden’s goal of at least partly vaccinating 70 percent of adults before July 4. More than 60 percent of adults have received at least one shot, according to a New York Times database.

The decision to enlist dating apps in the effort plugs into an ongoing cultural conversation over how Americans — particularly the young, vaccinated and frisky — can approach getting together again after so many months of being told doing so could be unsafe. A slew of ads hailing the end of the pandemic have featured sloppy kissers in barely there, skin-skimming fabrics. Beach house rentals are being snapped up. As vaccination rates rise, so do waxing appointments.

The new features announced on Friday vary from app to app, and most services should make them available by Monday, a White House spokesman said.

Tinder, an app of some 7 million users, said it recently conducted a survey that found more than half of the app’s younger users were only interested in dating someone who was vaccinated. An “I’M VACCINATED” badge is the option offered to Tinder users who have received a shot. BLK will add a “Vaxified” badge, and vaccinated users will be able to “boost” their profiles to make them visible to a wider range of people.

Alongside Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr. Slavitt sang the praises of apps with all the enthusiasm of a driver’s ed instructor, with Dr. Fauci grinning widely in the background.

“Alright,” Mr. Slavitt said when he completed his scripted spiel. “Got through that.”

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