Jill Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci attend Lightning vaccination event in Tampa

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TAMPA — Dequitia Parker was nervous about getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Thursday afternoon at Amalie Arena. But after experiencing the virus last year, she knew she didn’t want to take the chance of getting it again or, worse, contracting the Delta variant.

So Parker sat at a high-top table listening to Jill Biden’s words of encouragement as an AdventHealth nurse wiped down Parker’s left shoulder and prepared to administer the vaccine.

“(She was) just like a mother,” Parker, 38 of East Tampa, said of the first lady. “She said, ‘Look at me, don’t look at the needle.’ It was really fun and exciting, and I’m very grateful that she was there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

At their two-hour “Shots on Ice” vaccination event at Amalie Arena, the Lightning invited those who had not been vaccinated to get their shot in a cool way. AdventHealth administered both the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines for free.

After the event, five people were randomly selected from a drawing to win pairs of tickets to Game 7 of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Islanders Friday at Amalie. Four randomly selected people will receive $50 gift cards to the team store.

Earlier in the postseason, the Lightning offered ticketed fans the chance to get vaccinated before home playoff games through its Together Tampa Bay program.

Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, attended the event, along with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

The first lady, “a Philly girl through-and-through,” commended the Lightning organization and the Viniks for their creativity and the efforts they’ve made to promote vaccinations in the Tampa Bay area.

“You might be asking, ‘Dr. Biden, why would you betray your beloved (Philadelphia) Flyers by coming down to Florida and complimenting a rival team?’” the first lady said in a speech. “Well, there are some things that transcend even hockey. And I know that my beloved Flyers are right behind me feeling that way.”

Biden told attendees that “five-in-10 Floridians are fully vaccinated,” and “that’s just not enough.”

“It’s why I wanted to come here today,” she said. “Because we want everyone to be protected.”

Vinik said it was an exciting time to host a vaccination event at Amalie, one night before the Lightning-Islanders series finale in the same building. The winner will advance to the Stanley Cup final.

Castor said the event was the “coolest” way for people to get vaccinated, since it was held outside of a traditional setting such as a pharmacy or grocery store.

“I think a lot of people get busy and don’t think about it, and then others have questions and depend on false information,” Castor said. “People are still dying from this and now we have the variant, which is much more contagious and much more deadly, so now it’s even more important to get vaccinated.”

As for the game, the mayor said she expects another “butt-whooping” like Monday’s 8-0 win in Game 5, which was followed by a 3-2 loss Wednesday in Game 6.

“I think the Lightning are going to come back strong,” Castor said, “and it’s going to be a decisive win.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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