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First lady Jill Biden stops by historic Virginia school's vaccine clinic


Now that COVID vaccines are available for kids 5 to 11, thousands of families have taken their kids to get them. But many parents are reluctant. And that is why First Lady Jill Biden turned up at a school in northern Virginia, holding it up as a model. Here's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Franklin Sherman Elementary in McLean, Va., has a history of going first. In 1954, when it was time to conduct trials of the polio vaccine, the students at Franklin Sherman lined up. And so to kick off a national campaign to encourage COVID vaccination for children 5 and older, First Lady Jill Biden stopped in to see a vaccine clinic in the school's gym.

JILL BIDEN: So keep moving your arm around.

KEITH: The students at Franklin Sherman have been studying their school's role in the polio vaccine rollout. And sixth-grader Everett Munson, who spoke before Biden, drew a connection to today.


EVERETT MUNSON: We should remind adults and children that if they get vaccinated, this whole pandemic could be over a lot faster. And maybe we should even take an idea from the polio vaccine at Franklin Sherman. Everyone should get ice cream after their shots.


KEITH: Ice cream is always the right answer. But as the first lady and others in the Biden administration work to convince parents to get their children vaccinated, they do so in a vastly different America than the one that embraced the polio vaccine.

HOWARD MARKEL: It was totally communal.

KEITH: Howard Markel is a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan. Americans had a lot more faith in institutions back in 1954. Vietnam and Watergate hadn't happened yet. There was no social media. But now, he says, there's rampant misinformation.

MARKEL: I've studied an awful lot of pandemics, but I've never seen the noise, the volume so amplified.

KEITH: A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found only 27% of parents plan to rush right out and get their 5-to-11-year-olds A full 30% said they never would. The Biden administration is urging schools to set up vaccine clinics like the one at Franklin Sherman Elementary and to hold Q&A sessions for parents with local pediatricians, who are still trusted figures. The first lady will be traveling to schools all over the country in the coming weeks, making a direct appeal to parents.


BIDEN: Parenthood and worrying just go hand in hand. It's just what we do as parents. So I can't promise you that the dangers of this world will become any less frightening. I mean, just wait till your kids start driving.


BIDEN: But with this vaccine, we can take away at least one of your worries - a big one.

KEITH: Children are less likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID than those who are older, though there are still risks. But that does make the pitch a little bit more difficult than it was with the polio vaccine. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF DELAYDE'S "SEKAO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.