Dr. Anthony Fauci and First Lady Jill Biden toured a COVID-19 vaccination site in Harlem on Sunday, thanking New Yorkers of all ages for doing their part to help bring the pandemic to an end amid swirling questions about the virus’s origins.
Fauci, the nation’s leading expert in infectious diseases, arrived with Biden around 4:20 p.m. at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church, one of several city houses of worship doubling as inoculation sites in recent months.
“We’re going to end this outbreak with absolute certainty and the vehicle to ending it is vaccination,” said Fauci. “And that’s why I’m so impressed by being here and so honored to be here.”
About 15 people were vaccinated during the approximately 40-minute visit.
“Thank you for setting an example,” Biden told Annette Gausney, 92, who was getting the shot at the urging of her grandson, Shareif Jones.
“I’m not really afraid of needles anyway but, you know, it’s pleasant when people are pleasant and [Biden] certainly was,” Gausney said.
The nonagenarian had been hesitant to get vaccinated because “the news” makes it hard to know what to “really believe and what not to believe,” Jones said.
He added, “I understand where she’s coming from, though, since, like, what she’s been through growing up…[It’s hard] to convince somebody, who is an elderly Black woman in America, going through what they go through.”
But he added, “Recently, is like it’s better to have [the shots] than to not have it, you know what I mean, so that kind of clicked in her head and we’re here today.”
Jones revealed that the nonagenarian knew beforehand that the First Lady would be visiting the church — but only donned her glittering, sea-green mask and elegant purple dress to mark the sabbath.
“It’s Sunday so Sunday best,” he said. “She always dresses up on Sundays.”
Many among those vaccinated, however, were at the opposite end of the age spectrum.
“Do you want to hold my hand?” asked Biden of one 14-year-old boy getting the shot.
The teen, who did not give his name, shook his head “no,” drawing laughter from the crowd and praise from Biden as “a tough one.”
“You’re 14 so you’re exactly who we’re going for,” said Biden, referring to a recent push to inoculate kids ages 12 and up. “We definitely want [people] 12 and over to get vaccinated.”
Some kids were excited to get jabbed alongside Biden — including 14-year-old Kera Beckles, who said it earned her bragging rights with friends.
“I’d be like, ‘Oh I just happened to, like, get the vaccination while the First Lady was here. Just solid flex, like hmmmm,’” she said.
But other kids had no clue they were in the midst of political or public health celebrities.
Asked how it felt to meet Dr. Fauci, 12-year-old Lazarus Harouna replied, “Who? Who’s that? I’ve never seen him before in my life.”
Asked if he was excited to rub elbows with the First Lady, he said, “It didn’t mean much, to be honest.”
Outside the church, however, dozens of protesters railed against Fauci, slamming his handling of the pandemic, including revelations made in a recently-released trove of emails.
“We will not comply, Dr. Fauci!” one man shouted through a bullhorn.
Another demonstrator, who gave his name as Vangelis, confronted a pair of cops keeping the peace outside the church to demand that they take Fauci into custody.
“Arrest Fauci. He was right there,” he said. “You should have arrested Fauci.”
Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was assigned a security detail last year in response to threats against him and his growing celebrity.