A Nashville crowd booed on Tuesday when Jill Biden said ‘only 3 in 10 Tennesseans are vaccinated’ as part of her tour of the South to reverse the low rate of getting shots in the arms.
‘Well, you’re booing yourselves!,’ the first lady told the audience as she appeared at the Ole Smoky Distillery alongside country star Brad Paisley and actress Kimberly Williams in a state where only 33 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
Only about 10 people showed up to the pop-up vaccination clinic set up by the White House, but the bar next door was packed with those awaiting Biden’s remarks and a concert from Paisley.
Tennessee, like many Southern states, has one of the lowest COVID vaccination rates in the nation.
Six of the 10 states with the lowest vaccination rates are located in the South as health officials warn regional surges of COVID cases are possible as the Delta variant gains steam. Those officials also note such outbreaks are avoidable if people get vaccinated.
COVID cases are on the rise in some parts of the South. Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri have seen upticks.
Only 41 percent of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of a vaccine so far, the sixth-lowest percentage of all U.S. states, according to the CDC.
Both states she visited Tuesday have a vaccination rate below the 50 per cent mark: 33 percent are fully vaccinated in Tennessee and 25 percent are fully vaccinated in Mississippi, according to John Hopkins data.
Biden emphasized the safety and effectiveness of the COVD vaccine at both her stops, reminding people it is free to get their shot.
And, she pointed out the low vaccine rate in that part of the nation.
‘This state still has a little bit of a way to go,’ she told the crowd at the distillery in Nashville. ‘Only 3 in 10 Tennesseans are vaccinated.’
The crowd booed.
Jill Biden was in Tennessee to encourage Americans to get vaccinated but missing from her visit to a pop-up clinic at Ole Smokey Distillery was what it needed the most – people lined up to get their shot
The bar next door to the pop-up clinic was packed with people waiting to hear from first lady Jill Biden and listen to songs from country singer Brad Paisley
When Jill Biden told the crowd about Tennessee’s low vaccine rate, they booed: ‘Well, you’re booing yourselves!,’ she told them as they laughed
In Thursday she’ll be in Florida, where only 44 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
Mississippi, where the first lady visited earlier Tuesday, has the lowest vaccination rate in the nation.
Her message on Tuesday was tailored to her stops.
In Nashville, she reminded people the COVID vaccine is the path to returning to a normal life, particularly the music events the city is known for.
‘The vaccines are the only way to get back to, you know, the open mics and the music festivals and concerts that have made this city so very special,’ she told them.
In Mississippi, the first lady couched her speech in spiritual terms, speaking of faith in the deeply religious state, while urging people to trust science and get the vaccine.
‘I feel like a miracle’s here,’ Biden, a Catholic, said during a visit to a clinic at Jackson State University, a historically Black college in the Mississippi capital. ‘We’re getting back to the things that we’ve lost for so long, like hugging the people.’
She stressed the safety of the vaccine and urged people to get their shot.
‘The vaccines might feel like a miracle, but there’s no faith required,’ she said. ‘They are a result of decades of rigorous scientific research and discoveries, and they’ve been held to the very same safety standard as every single vaccine that we’ve had here in America.’
She reminded people the vaccine is safe, effective and free.
‘God bless you Mississippi. Go get vaccinated,’ she said at the end.
The first lady, wearing a $2,075 red zebra and lemon print Dolce & Gabbana dress with a $600 black Veronica Beard blazer, made the first of two stops this week in the Deep South in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy and raise vaccination rates.
Jill Biden comforts Adriana Lyttle, 12, as she receives her vaccine at the pop-up clinic at Ole Smoky Distillery in Nashville
Only about 10 people were at the pop-up clinic at the Ole Smoky Distillery in Nashville when Jill Biden stopped by with country singer Brad Paisley and actress Kimberly Williams
In Mississippi, Rep. Bennie Thompson, the state’s only Democratic US House member, said Biden was in the state to ‘mitigate a lot of the rumors floating in the community as to why we can’t accept the shot.’
None of those three states supported President Joe Biden in the presidential election. Florida, in particular, is Donald Trump country. The former president makes his home in that state and it’s GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, is a close Trump ally who became a national star because of his refusal to heed to lockdown restrictions during the pandemic.
But the states are part of a rise in COVID infections in the Southern belt, particularly among 18-to-29-year-olds, with the new Delta variant said to be to blame.
In Nashville, Biden was joined by Paisley, a country music super star, who opened his musical set with a retooled version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene,’ to the words: ‘Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vacc-iiiine…’
And, at both stops, the first lady held hands with young people who were getting their shot.
Vaccines rates in the US have bee on a downward trend since a peak in April. The South is an area in particular where the rollout has been slower than in the rest of the country
First lady Jill Biden talks to a vaccination recipient at a COVID-19 clinic at Jackson State University
First lady Jill Biden comforts a young boy as he gets a COVID-19 vaccination shot
Democratic U.S. House member Bennie Thompson gave Jill Biden a hug upon her arrival in Mississippi
‘God bless you Mississippi. Go get vaccinated,’ Jill Biden said
Jill Biden poses for a selfie during a tour of a COVID vaccine clinic at Jackson State University
Jill Biden boards Executive One Foxtrot on her way from Mississippi to Tennessee
During her tour of the clinic at Jackson State University, the first lady talked with young people waiting to receive either the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Wearing a black face mask, she held the hand of a young boy who was afraid of needles.
‘Thank you everybody for coming and doing this. We’re really working hard to get people vaccinated,’ she told them.
She then asked each of them to go home and call a friend and urge the friend to get vaccinated.
Mississippi first lady Elee Reeves, the wife of the Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, greeted Biden upon her arrival and joined her on the tour. Reeves, like Biden, is an English teacher.
The first lady’s trip is part of an administration wide effort to boost vaccination rates. She’ll visit Kissimmee and Tampa, Florida, on Thursday, where the Tampa Bay Lighting hockey team will join her.
As part of that vaccination push, Floridians will be invited to register to receive vaccinations, take shots to the net from the ice, score photos with ThunderBug and the Zamboni, as well as receive Lightning swag along with registering to win hockey tickets.
Vice President Kamala Harris kicked off a vaccination tour last week, making two Southern stops – in Greenville, South Carolina, and Atlanta.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will be in Illinois on Wednesday.
And President Biden will visit a vaccination clinic in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday.
The push comes after Biden‘s administration conceded Tuesday that it will fall short of its goal of having partially vaccinated 70 per cent of adult Americans by July 4th – but officials vowed they would ‘crush’ COVID-19 and said they have incentives in the work to raise the vaccination rate.
Officials blamed the missed goal – of having one shot in the arm of 70% of adult Americans – because of the slow vaccination rate among 18-to-26-year-olds.
‘The country has more work to do, particularly with 18-to-26 year-olds. The reality is many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them, and they’ve been less eager to get the shot,’ Jeffrey Zients, the head of the White House COVID response team, said at a press briefing.
‘It’ll take a few extra weeks to get to 70% of all adults with at least one shot with the 18-to-26-year-olds factored in,’ he added.
He also conceded the White House would fall short on Biden’s goal to have 150 million Americans fully vaccinated by Independence Day, coming in a few weeks late.
‘We will hit 160 million Americans fully vaccinated no later than mid July,’ he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said incentives remain in the works to get young people to vaccination clinics, including more public appearances by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become the star of the pandemic.
‘It’s not just Dr. Fauci on TikTok but that is happening,’ she said at her press briefing on Tuesday. ‘Dr. Fauci has done several Q&As with TikTok and Instagram influencers to answer questions to meet people where they are, including young people, give them information they need.’
She pointed out the administration is working with the business sector on give-aways to get more shots in arms.
‘Microsoft is giving away Xboxes at Boys and Girls Clubs, the College Challenge is rallying university students across the country, Walgreens is giving out $25 to anyone who gets vaccinated there before July 4th,’ she said.
And she called the original goal ‘bold’ and ‘ambitious.’
‘There’s nothing ever magical through science about 70%. 70% was a bold ambitious goal we set to continue to drive to get more people vaccinated across the country,’ she said.
Fauci, meanwhile, vowed the US would crush the coronavirus.
‘No one should think that when we reach the 70% across the country that we’re done. We are not done until we completely crushed this outbreak,’ he said.
He did not offer a definition of what ‘crushing’ the virus meant.
‘We’re gonna continue to vaccinate millions and millions more Americans across the coming months,’ Fauci said.
Jeffrey Zients, the head of the White House COVID response team, announced the Biden administration would not hit its goal to have partially vaccinated 70% of adult Americans, blaming low vaccine rate among 18-to-26-year-olds
Dr. Anthony Fauci vowed the country would ‘crush’ the coronavirus
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said incentives remain in the works to get young people to vaccination clinics
Administration officials kept a positive spin atop the news of their failure to reach Biden’s goals for Independence Day.
‘We have succeeded beyond our highest expectations,’ Zients argued.
In his opening remarks on the state of pandemic in the United States, Zients kept his comments positive and emphasized what the administration has accomplished.
He pointed out that the White House has met Biden’s goal of getting at least one shot in the arm of adults for Americans aged 30 and older. He added that goal would be met for adults 27 and older by the time the July 4th weekend passed.
He also noted that 16 states and Washington DC have hit the 70% rate for all adults.
And he emphasized: ‘We are gonna have a Fourth of July celebration which is beyond everyone’s highest expectations.’
Fauci also noted there would be no ‘surge’ of COVID infections despite the White House not meeting its goals.
‘There will be local, type of regional outbreaks,’ Fauci warned, saying it was ‘totally and completely avoidable by getting vaccinated.’
Biden set his original July 4th goals on May 4th.
For the administration, it’s the first major benchmark it will miss. Biden has routinely bragged about hitting his goals – including 100 million shots in the first 100 days and reaching 300 million shots in 150 days. Critics called those early goals easily reached.