As Texas continues to try and improve its COVID-19 vaccination rate, the state is getting a boost with a visit from members of the White House.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are scheduled to visit several vaccination sites in Texas tomorrow. The visit from Biden and Emhoff comes as the White House recently acknowledged it’s going to fall short of its goal of having 70 percent of adults with at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4.
According to a tracker, 11.8 million Texans are fully vaccinated, which is roughly 40.8 percent of the state. Texas ranks close to the bottom of states with adults fully vaccinated. Greg Abbott has refused to offer lotteries or other incentives like other states that have also seen their vaccination rates steadily decline.
Dr. Biden will arrive in North Texas tomorrow afternoon. She will be visiting a pop-up vaccination site at Conrad High School with former NFL player Emmitt Smith. The pop-up is a joint event between the Dallas Independent School District and Parkland Hospital.
Another person in North Texas who will be on hand for the First Lady’s visit is Leonor Marquez, the Chief Executive Officer of Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic. Los Barrios Unidos is a federally funded community health center in West Dallas. About 88 percent of patients at Los Barrios Unidos are Hispanic, and 59 percent are uninsured.
Health workers at Los Barrios Unidos have been at the forefront of trying to ensure all eligible adults in Dallas get vaccinated against COVID-19. A partnership between Los Barrios Unidos and the AT&T Performing Arts Center has allowed the clinic to host several successful vaccination events with flamenco dancers, classical guitar players, and even Ballet Folklorico, a famed Dallas dance company.
In an interview with Texas Signal, Marquez talked about the importance of working together to combat the biggest public health emergency in a century. For Marquez, having Dr. Biden and Smith, an NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver, in town to promote the vaccines is a net positive. “I think there’s a role for celebrities and if they can use their influence to encourage someone on the fence, I’ll take it,” said Marquez.
Marquez is also thrilled that Los Barrios Unidos will be one of the community health centers represented for the First Lady’s visit. She also, however, recognizes the unique role of community health centers and one-off vaccination visits. “Yes, we’re happy to see the patients we’ve known for years, but we know this is a public health issue and people may come to our clinic or a vaccine event that we’re running and we will never see them again, and that’s okay,” said Marquez.
After her visit in Dallas, Dr. Biden will be joined by Emhoff in Houston where they will attend the Astros-Orioles game at Minute Maid Park. According to the Astros, there will be free vaccinations before the game.
Though COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have gone down significantly since their peaks earlier this year, several health experts are warning about the potential of a new surge from the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India. New reporting from the Associated Press shows that 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths are from the unvaccinated.