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Obama, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley team up to urge communities of color to get coronavirus vaccine

Former President Obama joined former NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley to encourage communities of color and young people to get their COVID-19 vaccines. 

“As the vaccine becomes more available, I want to make sure that our communities, particularly ones — African American, Latino, as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get their lives back to normal, and the sooner we get more people vaccinated, the better off we’re gonna be,” the former president said as part of a segment in the “Roll Up Your Sleeves” special that aired on Sunday on NBC.

Barkley added that he believes “it’s important for us to keep talking about the vaccine.” 

“So I’m telling all my friends ‘Yo man, forget what happened back in the day.’ Every Black person, please go out and get vaccinated,” he said. 

Obama highlighted Barkley’s reference to history, noting the Tuskeegee syphilis study, which was started by the Public Health Service in 1932. 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.

The former president also noted that many communities of color have disproportionate rates of conditions like diabetes, which can put people at a greater risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. 

He also spoke to young people who might believe that, even if they become infected with COVID-19, “it’s going to be like a bad cold.” 

“Part of what we’re seeing now is there’s a different strain of the virus that’s come over. That’s now the dominant variant, and it’s actually hitting young people harder than the original version,” Obama said during the segment that aired on Sunday.

“Part of the reason to get vaccinated is because it makes everybody safer. And it’s the same reason why, by the way, you know, 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,” he continued. 

President Biden also addressed the special, which was created by ATTN: and Civic Nation’s Made to Save initiative and presented by Walgreens.

The president told Americans that getting their COVID-19 vaccine is “free,” “convenient,” and “the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19.”

“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,” Biden said. 

Tags COVID-19 vaccine Joe Biden Tuskegee syphilis experiment

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