First lady Jill Biden urges all to get shots, shows support for military families in short Hawaii visit

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Jul. 26—First lady Jill Biden implored Hawaii residents to get vaccinated for COVID during a whirlwind stopover on Oahu, which was part of the administration's efforts to improve vaccination rates among Americans as well as honor the work and serv ­ice of military families.

Biden visited a pop-up vaccination clinic at Waipahu High School on Sunday and attended an afternoon barbecue for military members and their families at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

"I want to thank the millions of Americans who have chosen to get vaccinated and the clinics like this one that made it possible, " Biden said during her remarks after touring the Waipahu vaccination clinic. "And Hawaii has done a fantastic job getting shots in arms. "

But she cautioned, "We are not done yet. There are still to far too many people who are not vaccinated. That's why I wanted to come and spend time with you today because, Hawaii, your lives, your health, matters to the president and me."

Biden said the last push to get people vaccinated "just seems the hardest of all."

"I'm here to ask everyone listening right now to choose to get vaccinated, " she said.

Biden also encouraged those who have been vaccinated to persuade others to do the same.

"We need to make our case, " she said.

Biden said COVID is more contagious now than ever and that it continues to spread.

"Even one hospitalization, one life lost is too many, " she said. "Being fully vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from hospitalization and death. God Bless you all, and go get vaccinated."

The first lady has been touring vaccination clinics across the states. The administration wants to reach millions of Americans who still need protection against the virus, and to highlight the ease of getting vaccinated.

Biden also praised Gov. David Ige's pandemic response.

"David, from the beginning of this pandemic, you've done everything that you could to protect the people of Hawaii. You've led Hawaii on our mission to vaccinate everyone, and you continue to lead with science and compassion."

About a hundred people were signed up Sunday for COVID shots at the Waipahu clinic, which took walk-ins till 4 p.m.

Hawaii officials are hoping that Biden's visit to Hawaii will spur more residents to get their shots as surge.

Hawaii health officials reported 276 new coronavirus cases Sunday, the 11th straight day of triple-digit infections. Officials also reported two coronavirus-related deaths.

Ige, who also spoke at the Waipahu High event, said, "Hawaii, like communities across the nation and around the world, is seeing an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases."

He said Hawaii has reached a vaccination rate of almost 60 %, and "almost all of the people getting sick are not vaccinated."

Their messaging was appreciated by Loise Medina, a 2020 Waipahu High School Academy of Health &Sciences valedictorian, who has been administering COVID vaccines at Hawaii Pacific Health vaccination clinics to pay her way through college.

Medina vaccinated two children—Josiah Bartolome, 12, and Christlyn Bartolome, 15—while the first lady observed, and later had the honor of introducing Biden before her remarks in Waipahu.

Medina, who immigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines in eighth grade, said she was grateful that COVID vaccines are readily available in the U.S.

"Back home, in the Philippines, they don' t even have that kind of access because they don't have the system that we have here, " she said. "I'm thankful the first lady, our president, they have that system down, they are trying to get it to everyone as soon as they can. I'm so happy that they are prioritizing our health over anything else."

But Biden's visit did get some pushback from protesters, who turned out in a large enough group that her entrance into the vaccination clinic at the Waipahu High gym had to be rerouted. Vaccination opponents and supporters of former President Donald Trump accounted for most of the protesters.

Levana Lomma, who formed a group called For Our Rights in response to various COVID emergency orders, flew in from Kauai for the protest.

"The message that we want the first lady to know is that our children are not lab rats, " said Lomma, who was wearing a T-shirt that read, "Unmask the keiki."

Lomma said she objects to the first lady promoting the COVID vaccination when it does not have FDA approval. Lomma said that she is concerned about the COVID vaccine's effect on health and civil liberties, and opposes discrimination against those who decide not to get vaccinated.

Biden got a better reception when she mingled with about 75 military members and their families Sunday afternoon before talking about the importance of empowering their social, emotional and physical health at Makalapa Crater at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Ashley Cantero, a 12-year-old military dependent of a single mother, introduced Biden at the event.

Cantero said that she thought she was being "pranked " when her mother told her she would be introducing the first lady.

"I'm very excited and happy that I got to experience this, " she said. "I hope that they do accomplish what they're trying to reach because I think that it's really nice and thoughtful for the military and their spouses."

Biden emphasized the need to better support military families by providing empowerment for spouses, child care and high-quality education.

"Military families may not wear a uniform, but you serve as well, " she said. "Our troops can't focus on their missions if their families are struggling."

The health of military families is part of her initiative with President Joe Biden, Joining Forces, which aims to improve support for military families.

The first lady departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on the jet known as Executive One Foxtrot to return to Washington late Sunday afternoon, concluding her short stop in Hawaii.

While on the tarmac, Biden posed for photos with Ige and his wife, Dawn Amano-Ige.

She climbed the stairs shortly about 4 :10 p.m., turned around, waved and said, "Bye and thank you. "

Biden arrived in Hawaii early Saturday afternoon for a brief stopover on Oahu, where she stayed at the Presidential Cottage at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.

The trip to Hawaii followed her trip to Anchorage, Alaska, and then the Tokyo Olympics, which was her first solo international trip as first lady. The trip to Tokyo was geared toward generating enthusiasm for the Olympics in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden's trip to Japan also had a Hawaii connection. Before departing Japan for Hawaii on Friday, Biden dedicated a room in the U.S. ambassador's residence to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Ino ­uye and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye. The senator died in 2012 and his wife died last year.

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