Why seeing Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton get the COVID-19 vaccine on live TV matters

With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.


Of course, some will call the former presidents Deep State actors, or puppets for the pedophile cabal, or co-conspirators in Bill Gates' and George Soros' evil plot to destroy humanity, or or some other paranoid, tinfoil hat goofiness. But for the folks living in normal reality, such bipartisan examples of leadership and solidarity with the American people will be appreciated.

And for those who doubt that it will make a difference, remember that Princess Diana's simple act of hugging a child with AIDS sparked a sea change in public perception of people who were HIV-positive. Seeing her fearless compassion, even for a photo op, made a difference in the way society viewed HIV and AIDS.

Vaccine reticence isn't new, and some of it is understandable. In 1976, a new strain of H1N1 (swine flu) prompted President Gerald Ford to push a mass vaccination program that was halted after it was discovered that the vaccine was associated with a small increase in Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Of the 45 million Americans who received the vaccine, 450 developed the syndrome—a tiny percentage, but enough to undermine public trust.

As Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies program, pointed out early in the pandemic, the only thing worse than a pandemic would be a bad vaccine. But the accelerated development and trialing of the vaccines that are currently being evaluated does not mean they have been rushed or are unsafe. Obviously, scientists have wanted to get a vaccine made and distributed as quickly as possible—but also as safely as possible. And while it's tempting to assume that a vaccine being rolled out in a little less than a year means it's risky, since the process usually takes much longer, that really is just an assumption.

The reality is that the virus itself is risky, both in the potential for death as well as long-term health impacts. And while impressively quick, the vaccines we're seeing will have gone through sufficient trials to put most people's fears to rest. While people fret about not knowing the long-term effects of the vaccine, Dr. Fauci stated in an interview with the Washington Post that in 90 to 95 percent of the vaccines we already have, long-term adverse effects have revealed themselves in the first 30 to 45 days. While vaccines will continue to be monitored for a year or two to see if anything unexpected pops up, Fauci says he feels confident in recommending everyone get the vaccine once it's approved by the FDA.

"The speed was based on very exquisite, scientific advances and an enormous amount of resources that were put into Operation Warp Speed to make this happen," Fauci said. "There was no compromise of safety, nor was there compromise of scientific integrity."

"I can tell you when my turn comes up and the FDA says that this is safe and effective, I, myself, will get vaccinated and I will recommend that my family gets vaccinated," he added.

Our understanding of science, immunology, and vaccine development has improved greatly in the past 50 years. So have the protocols, regulations, and approval processes for safety and efficacy. The whole point of having institutions and independent monitoring boards and transparency is to make sure things are being done as safely as possible.

Hopefully, our trust in science, understanding of the risks of COVID-19, and example set by leadership in our country will prompt enough people to get vaccinated so we can finally make our way to the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.


Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less