Hoping to assuage fears that a coronavirus vaccine might be unsafe, three former U.S. presidents say they have volunteered to be publicly inoculated in a coordinated effort to demonstrate that it’s safe.
Aides for former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush told CNN on Wednesday that the 42nd and 43rd presidents have committed to receiving the vaccine in public, and former President Barack Obama will pledge to do the same in a radio interview set to air Thursday.
Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, said Bush came up with the idea by contacting Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the U.S. special representative for global health diplomacy and U.S. global AIDS coordinator, about promoting a vaccine.
Clinton’s press secretary, Angel Urena, said the former president and Arkansas governor is willing to receive his vaccine “in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”
Obama made a similar commitment in an interview on SiriusXM radio.
“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting COVID,” he said in a clip of the interview airing Thursday.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will meet next week to make a recommendation as to whether a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech should be given emergency use authorization. The companies have said late-stage clinical trials showed the vaccine is 95% effective at blocking the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The British government approved the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said its distribution, as well as that for a competing vaccine from Moderna, could begin before Christmas.
Clinton, Bush and Obama hope images of them receiving a vaccine will disperse some skepticism about the safety of a coronavirus vaccine.
A study in October said only about half of Americans are “extremely,” “moderately” or “slightly likely” to take a COVID-19 vaccine that meets FDA standards. Gallup said last month a survey showed that just 58% of Americans said they would be inoculated and 42% said they would not. An earlier Gallup poll found that half of respondents said they would refuse a vaccine.
Skepticism is also significant among persons of color. Gallup found that just 48% of non-Whites said they would take a vaccine, even though COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Latino communities.
“I understand you know historically … why the African American community, would have some skepticism,” Obama said in his interview.
“But the fact of the matter is, is that vaccines are why we don’t have polio anymore, the reason why we don’t have a whole bunch of kids dying from measles and smallpox and diseases that used to decimate entire populations and communities.”
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