When a vaccine is ready, so will be the nation’s three most recent former presidents.
Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have all said they are willing to get a COVID-19 immunization — once deemed safe by infectious disease experts — and do so publicly in order to build public trust around the novel vaccine.
“Absolutely I’m going to take it,” Obama said in an interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison scheduled to air Thursday. “People like Anthony Fauci, who I know and I’ve worked with, I trust completely ... I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it.”
Obama added that he may end up taking the vaccine on TV or have it filmed, “just so people know I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting COVID.”
During the interview, the 44th president acknowledged the very real problem of vaccine hesitancy, which some health experts warn could cause people of color — who have been more adversely affected by the pandemic — to avoid the shot.
“I understand historically, everything dating back to the Tuskegee experiments and so forth, why the African American community would have some skepticism,” Obama began, referencing the notorious Tuskegee experiment where hundreds of Black men with syphilis were left untreated for decades so that doctors could track the disease’s progression.
“But the fact of the matter is,” Obama continued, “is that vaccines are why we don’t have polio anymore, the reason why we don’t have a whole bunch of kids dying from measles and smallpox and diseases that used to decimate entire populations and communities.”
Studies have shown that people of color have the highest death rates from COVID-19. “We’re the most exposed, most vulnerable, in part because we have preexisting conditions,” Obama said.
The nation’s 43rd president, Bush, has also committed to taking the vaccine once it’s ready. According to a CNN report, Bush’s chief of staff Freddy Ford said Bush had reached out to Dr. Fauci and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx asking how to help promote the vaccine.
“A few weeks ago, President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated,” Ford said. “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”
Clinton’s press secretary also told CNN that the 42nd president would be willing to take the vaccine in a public setting in order to promote it.
“President Clinton will definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials. And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same,” Angel Urena said.
These statements come in the wake of promising news that late-stage clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines are proving more and more effective. On Wednesday, the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. In the US, Pfizer-BioNTech applied to the FDA for emergency use of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine late last month, followed closely by Cambridge company Moderna. If the agency signs off, individuals most vulnerable to the disease could start getting shots by the middle or end of December.