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The complicated question of celebrity vaccinations

By Serena Atkinson and Ridge Coffey Mar. 17, 2021

Quincy Han Art


In the late 1940s, an outbreak of polio devastated an average of 35,000 people and nearly 60,000 children were infected. When the polio vaccine came out in 1955, many teenagers and children were reluctant to get the vaccine. However when Elvis Presley received the polio vaccine on live television in 1956, he inspired millions of teenagers, many of whom had previously refused to get the vaccine, to do the same. By 1960, this increase in vaccinations had reduced yearly cases of polio by 90 percent in the US, according to the University of Cambridge. Recently with the announcement of multiple vaccines for the coronavirus (COVID-19), some believe that today’s celebrities should follow Presley’s lead and influence the public to get vaccinated.

NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of the many figures who favors early vaccinations for athletes due to the influence that they can have on communities hesitant to receive the vaccination, according to the New York Times. According to a survey, only 55 percent of African Americans under 35 and only 65 percent of African American adults as a whole are willing to get vaccinated. This could be due to cultural factors, with ABC News stating that many Black Americans distrust medical institutions due to discrimination and unethical treatment. The Wall Street Journal also reports that much fewer vaccine clinics have been set up in minority neighborhoods, so it could be difficult for people of color to access them. Along with this, many African Americans do not have access to reliable health insurance which leads to uneven access to medical services and a more devastating outcome regarding the coronavirus. Abdul-Jabbar believes celebrity influence may be a solution to this larger issue.

Although many people are eager to take the vaccine, stumbling blocks currently exist with the distribution of the vaccine, one of which is supply. Although multiple pharmaceutical companies, such as Moderna and Pfizer, have already developed and begun distributing vaccines, The New York Times reports that they are already in limited supply, and it will be difficult for many states in the US to meet the increasing demand because many manufacturers are already working at full capacity. According to CBS News, the distribution success rate has varied from region to region, with states such as West Virginia finishing more than 90 percent of vaccinating healthcare workers while more populous states, like California, lag behind. Center for Disease Control data reports Georgia and Alabama as having the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates.

After vaccinating healthcare workers, states have begun focusing on the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. However, entertainers and other celebrities have argued that they should receive the vaccination alongside this group; former NBA player Charles Barkley felt that professional athletes should have easier access to the vaccine due to paying more tax dollars compared to the average American, according to the New York Times.

“If people are being mindful about the situation, they are going to choose to get the vaccination. They should not need basketball players or influencers telling them to get the shot,” Senior Zachary White said.

Celebrity vaccinations would certainly encourage others into getting the vaccine as well, as Elvis Presley proved over 60 years ago. However, unlike healthcare and essential workers, celebrities do not have to go to work and interact with hundreds of people every day—and thus constantly expose themselves to COVID-19—in order to survive.

Considering the limited supply and overload that vaccine distribution already faces, prioritizing celebrity vaccinations would, at best, encourage the public to obtain vaccines that are not yet even available to them. At worst, they would only feed into entitlement and preferential treatment for the rich and influential, as exhibited by Barkley’s comments.

The issue of vaccinations is just one facet of suspicion and inequality in healthcare; celebrity endorsements are only a very superficial solution. To truly address this problem, America must rebuild trust in science, not starpower.

 

About the Contributors

Serena Atkinson

Staff Writer


Serena is a senior and this is her third year as a staff writer. She likes the Clash, kitchen-sink drama films, and looking at birds that are in her backyard.









Ridge Coffey

Entertainment Editor


Ridge Coffey is the entertainment editor for the Charger Account. He is a senior at Leland and he hopes to major in creative writing at Boise State. Outside of school, Ridge enjoys spending time with his friends and doing musical theatre. He hopes everyone is doing well in these troubling times.

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