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Jill Biden, Jennifer Garner go mask-free on vaccine-promoting West Virginia trip
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Jill Biden added a shot of star power in her push to encourage vaccines among young teens, teaming up Thursday with actress Jennifer Garner for a trip to a West Virginia school's vaccination clinic.
"Things are getting better every day," said Biden in what are believed to be her first mask-less public remarks at an in-person event since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Vaccinated friends and family are able to take off their masks," Biden said at Capital High School, referring to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance announced just moments earlier that vaccinated Americans don't need to wear face coverings indoors or outside.
"As of yesterday, everyone 12 and over can now get to the vaccine," she added. "And that's making our gatherings with our family and our friends safer."
The CDC said Wednesday that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for those aged 12 to 15; its use had previously only been approved for those 16 and over.
"We are thrilled to just be getting back to normal. It's so exciting," Garner said. "I can't believe I'm standing here without a mask on, looking at mask-less faces," she told a group of about 50 socially distanced audience members in the school's gymnasium. "And we owe that to President Biden and we owe that in large part to Gov. [Jim] Justice."
The 49-year-old performer, who supported President Biden in the 2020 White House race, has touted the importance of vaccinations for years, advocating for families to protect themselves against the flu by getting a shot as far back as 2008.
Jill Biden has called the "Yes Day" star a longtime friend - the pair served together on the board of the nonprofit Save the Children.
Garner removed her black face mask seconds before greeting Biden face-to-face on the tarmac of Yeager Airport before heading to the high school.
"Dr. Biden told us right before we got off the plane" about the new CDC guidelines, said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who headed to the clinic alongside Garner and the first lady.
"You're going to see it's getting back to normal," Manchin said. The lawmaker repeatedly referred to Garner, who grew up in the Mountain State, as its "first daughter."
Biden expressed excitement about appearing mask-less for the event, but joked, "And here I had gone out to buy one at the store that was coordinated with my outfit. So, you can't win."
"We're getting back to those things that we lost for so long," she said.
Biden, Garner and Manchin toured the clinic set up at the school. Biden held the hand of a young girl and turned the student's head to look at her as she received her shot.
"If you don't look, you'll be OK!" Biden exclaimed. "I was probably squeezing your hand harder than you were squeezing mine."
"The most important thing we can do is get this virus behind us," Garner said. "And in order to do that, we have got to get everyone with vaccine hesitancy into these chairs and get shots into their arms."
The "13 Going on 30" star said she was "thrilled" that two of her three school-age children with ex-husband Ben Affleck had vaccine appointments scheduled for next week.
"I don't even know if they know it yet. But they know it now. It's happening," Garner said with a smile. "I cannot wait."