Jill Biden touts vaccine in poorly inoculated Mississippi

First Lady Jill Biden speaks at Jackson State University during a visit on Tuesday, July 22, 2021. | Credit: WLBT

First lady Jill Biden is encouraging people in one of the least-vaccinated states to roll up their sleeves and get immunized against the coronavirus.

Posted: Jun 23, 2021 9:25 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — First lady Jill Biden visited one of the states least vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday, encouraging residents of Mississippi to get their shots and telling them, "The White House, our administration — we care about you.”

“I’m here today to ask all of the people who can hear my voice, who can see my face, to get their shot," Biden said after visiting a clinic at Jackson State University, one of the largest historically Black universities in the country. Biden later encouraged people who were getting vaccinated in Nashville, Tennessee, with the help of country singer Brad Paisley later Tuesday evening.

Mississippi and Tennessee have consistently ranked among the U.S. states with the fewest number of residents vaccinated against COVID-19, along with Alabama. Approximately 30% of Mississippi’s total population is fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.

The first lady said she wanted to visit states like Mississippi and Tennessee because the current vaccination rates are "just not enough."

“That’s why the White House said, 'Jill, please, can you go to Mississippi?' Because the president, the White House, our administration, we care about you, we care about the people of Mississippi. We want them to be safe. We want them to be healthy.”

Mississippi's U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who was present at Tuesday's event in the state capital, said it's important for Biden to be in Mississippi "given the demographics of the population that is most vulnerable.”

Mississippi is among the states in the U.S. with the highest number of chronic health conditions that can make people more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has said the biggest issues he sees driving vaccine hesitancy are misinformation and a cultural refusal to prioritize preventative care measures.

President Joe Biden had set a vaccination goal of delivering at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July Fourth, a target the White House administration acknowledged Tuesday he will likely fall short of.

As of Tuesday, 54% of Americans had been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Increased participation in states like Mississippi and Tennessee will be essential to boosting the nation’s overall vaccine rate.

Inside the Ole Smoky Distillery and Yee-Haw Brewing Co. in Nashville, bartenders were serving beers and shots over loud country music as people got vaccinated outside in a pop-up clinic. Biden said that only three in 10 Tennesseans had been vaccinated, which prompted boos from the crowd.

“The vaccines are the only way to get back to the open mics and the music festivals and the concerts that make this town so very special,” Biden said.

Paisley noted that the COVID-19 virus had hit the country music artist community very hard and that icons like Mississippi-native Charley Pride and John Prine had died before a vaccine could be created.

To lighten the mood, Paisley sang a few songs including ad-libbing the lines “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine” to the tune of Dolly Parton’s famous song “Jolene."

Many Mississippi residents remain hesitant, however.

Angel Devine of Jackson said Tuesday that she has chosen not to get the COVID-19 vaccine so far because she doesn’t like needles, and she’s worried that the shot won’t be effective against variants.

She said she is now considering it, not because of the first lady's visit, but because she has been urged to by her 18-year-old daughter, who is heading off to the University of Southern Mississippi to study nursing.

“She wants to get it, and she wants me to get it with her," she said. "I’m still concerned, but it does want me to take it a little more. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Dobbs has said family pressure is one of the most powerful motivating factors to get people to take the vaccine.

Glenda McHenry, 78, of Pearl, a city outside Jackson, said she has family members who are still waiting to get the shot, but she got hers months ago. She said she wanted to spend time with her three grandchildren without being concerned about them passing the virus to her, or vice versa.

“I did have some worries at first — just really not knowing what it was going to do to you,” she said, of the vaccine. “But I just felt it was the thing to do. It was important to be able to spend time with those kids.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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