Celebs Boost COVID-19 Vaccination Effort

Campaign shares vaccination experiences from entertainers

By Larry Braverman

As The White House announces plans to ship COVID-19 vaccine doses directly to neighborhood pharmacies, the campaign to vaccinate every American is facing two major challenges.

The first is ensuring that there is enough vaccine to go around—and quickly. Though the federal government is shipping 10 million doses to states each week, only about 1 million doses will be made available through the pharmacy program for now. The second challenge is convincing skeptical Americans that the vaccine is effective and necessary in order to end the spread of the virus and steer the country toward economic recovery. 

To that end, the vaccination effort is getting a boost from celebrity endorsements. Sir Ian McKellen, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Martha Stewart, among others, have been sharing photos and videos on social media of themselves getting vaccinated

Actor, director and producer Tyler Perry has gone above and beyond with a 30-minute YouTube special titled “COVID-19 Vaccine and the Black Community,” a sit-down discussion with Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean, Emory School of Medicine at Grady Health System; and Dr. Kimberly Dyan Manning, professor of medicine at Grady Health System. In the special, Perry shares his vaccination story and discusses the importance of getting the vaccine. 

“I want to make this completely clear: I do not want anybody to take this because I’m taking it,” Perry explains. “What I do want to do is give you the information, the facts. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

Elvis Gets Vaccinated

Perry’s efforts, and those of other celebrities who have been vaccinated, might feel familiar to older generations of Americans who recall the polio vaccination campaigns of the mid-20th century. Virologist Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was first put into use in the early 1950s, but the vaccination effort was hampered by skepticism and confusion, especially among the teenage population.

As part of its campaign to educate the public, health officials enlisted future Las Vegas headliner Elvis Presley to help convince his teenage fans that the polio vaccine was safe. Presley received the vaccine backstage before a 1956 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and also recorded public service announcements to boost the vaccination effort.  

Presley’s endorsement was a success for the vaccination effort, leading to a surge in teen vaccinations across the U.S. 

Why It Matters Today

Enlisting the aid of Perry and others is critical to America’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, as health officials are not only up against traditional myths about vaccinations, but also the Internet-fueled vaccine deniers and conspiracy theorists who have difficulty separating fact from fiction, such as the group that shut down a mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 30. 

As part of its effort to educate the public and encourage vaccinations, the Southern Nevada Health District is encouraging people to “Make a Plan” for vaccination and refer to its COVID-19 resources website for information about vaccine clinics.

Nevada is lagging behind other states when it comes to the number of people vaccinated, with less than 7% of the population receiving the first dose as of Feb. 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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