Former President Barack Obama, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley Push COVID-19 Vaccination Message

Kimberly Redmond  |

Former President Barack Obama teamed up with former National Basketball Association stars Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to put an end to the pandemic.

During NBC’s hour-long “Roll Up Your Sleeves” special on Sunday, the trio reached out to minority communities and younger Americans who may be hesitant to get the vaccine and insisted that getting the jab “will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal.” 

“The sooner we get more people vaccinated, the better off we’re going to be,” Obama said.

He noted that with underlying, pre-existing health conditions being more prevalent in communities of color, “We’re more vulnerable” to the virus.

He also added that many young people believe if they get coronavirus it will be “like a bad cold,” but the dominant strain in the US — the more contagious UK variant — “is hitting young people harder than the original version.”

“Part of the reason to get vaccinated is because it makes everybody safer. And it's the same reason why... we don’t have things like polio anymore. Measles used to kill people all the time. The reason we don’t see that is because kids get the vaccine before they even go to school,” Obama said.

Barkley said he is on the verge of getting his second shot, while O'Neal said he has been vaccinated, along with family members with underlying conditions.

"But I'm not worried about me or my family. I'm worried about the average mom and dad," O'Neal said.

"I think it's important for us to keep talking about the vaccine," Barkley said. 

Barkley also said he is encouraging his friends to get the vaccine and to not worry about past medical transgressions against the Black community — such as the Tuskegee Experiment.

Obama highlighted Barkley’s reference to history, noting the Public Health Service’s Tuskegee syphilis study. Under the study, Black men with syphilis were not offered care for the disease, even after penicillin became the main form of treatment for syphilis.

“The irony is when you know about the Tuskegee experiment, what was going on there was, the government withheld treatment that was available for Black men for syphilis. It wasn’t that they made them sick by giving them medicine, it’s that they didn’t give them medicine they needed,” Obama said.

Sunday’s broadcast also included appearances from President Joe Biden, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, Michelle Obama and numerous celebrities including Faith Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jennifer Lopez. It was created by ATTN: and Civic Nation’s Made to Save initiative and presented by Walgreens Company.

President Biden told viewers, “We’re making tremendous progress, but we’re still in the race against this virus, and we need to vaccinate tens of millions of more Americans.”

As of Monday, 132 million Americans, 39.9% of the country, have received one dose of a vaccine, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 85 million people, 25.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated. 

This week, the White House is launching a targeted media blitz to help address vaccine hesitancy among the portion of the population that has not been vaccinated, Axios reported. 

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Source: Equities News

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