First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff Visit Houston To Push COVID-19 Vaccines

Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff at the Houston vaccination drive on Tuesday.
Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff at the Houston vaccination drive on Tuesday. Photo by Jack Gorman

First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff made a trek to Minute Maid Park Tuesday evening ahead of that night’s Astros game against the Baltimore Orioles to lend a hand with a pop-up COVID-19 vaccinated clinic for local residents interested in getting one of the life-saving shots.

Eager residents were lined up in Minute Maid’s Union Station for their vaccinations and the chance to meet the spouses of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Numerous healthcare workers from Houston Methodist were on-hand to handle the inoculations, guiding residents through the quick and virtually painless process of getting one step closer to putting the pandemic behind them.

Biden visited another vaccine clinic in Dallas earlier Tuesday, joined by former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith. When asked why she came to push vaccinations in Houston and in Texas specifically, Biden said “Because the numbers are low here. I think [only] 40 percent of all Texans are vaccinated.”

“The President and the Vice President [and] Doug and I care about the American people, about their health. So that’s why I’m here, she said, to “encourage everybody here in Texas to go and get the vaccines.”

Emhoff touted that one of the perks of getting vaccinated is being able to safely go mask-free at sporting events.

“Everyone wants to come to the baseball games without masks. Do it. Get your vaccine, but this way, you can go out in public safely. You can do it without getting anyone else sick,” Emhoff said. “Save yourself, save others. It’s the right thing to do, and America, please listen to our First Lady.”

Biden and Emhoff were joined by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Fort Bend County Judge KP George and U.S. Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia, all of whom joined in to thank the healthcare workers present and to thank those getting vaccinated.

Hidalgo said she was thrilled to have the First Lady and Second Gentleman in town for the evening.

“We’re very happy to welcome them both to Harris County and for their health in promoting vaccination,” Hidalgo said. “We’re joined 100 percent here in the third largest county with their plan.”

“We’re pulling out all the stops, but of course, them being here really helps us spread the message,” Hidalgo said. “You can just see it. It’s so exciting. It’s so wonderful.”

Those who got vaccinated Tuesday earned a free pair of tickets to an Astros game.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Those who got vaccinated at the walk-up clinic Tuesday night got the extra perk of a pair of free Astros tickets, either to Tuesday night’s game or to one of three upcoming games against the Oakland Athletics July 6-8. Folks who got their jab at Minute Maid Tuesday night also received a free replica 2017 World Series ring.

Marisela Vasquez, a Houstonian mother of four thought Tuesday’s event would be the perfect opportunity to get vaccinations for her three oldest kids — two twin 12-year-old boys and her 13-year-old son. “We saw the opportunity, and we came out to support our Astros as well,” she said. Vasquez’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter is still too young to be vaccinated, but Vasquez said she’d be sure to get her inoculated once shots for her age group are available.

Vasquez already received her COVID-19 vaccination about a month ago, and said she and her sons were thrilled once vaccines were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for kids 12 and up. “They were pretty excited. They were ready to get it, to go back to school and be around others.”

As for the White House residents present at that night’s game, Vasquez said it was definitely an extra incentive to come out Tuesday night. “They are all excited about that. They’re like ‘Maybe we can take a selfie with her?’” she chuckled.

Although the United States is on pace to just narrowly miss President Biden’s goal that 70 percent of all adults in the country get at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot before the Fourth of July, local vaccinations are continuing to tick up, albeit more slowly than they did in the early months of the vaccines’ availability earlier this year.

The greater Houston area vaccination rate has stagnated in recent weeks as public health messaging from the White House and local public health organizations is starting to bump up against the pockets of vaccine hesitancy that still exist across the region, but Harris County and Fort Bend County are as of now still ahead of the statewide vaccination rate.

In Harris County, 50.3 percent of all county residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated. Neighboring Fort Bend County has been rightfully boasting about having the highest countywide vaccination rate in the entire state with over 61 percent of that county’s residents having been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

During the event, a teenage boy showed off the replica 2017 World Series ring he got as one of his vaccination freebies. Ehmoff, ever the Californian and Los Angeles Dodgers fan, couldn’t help but interject.

“They beat my team,” he reminded the  excited Astros fan.

It was a whirlwind day of travel for the pair, one that will continue for a while longer.
Photo by Jack Gorman
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards