Baseball Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron, whose 755 career home runs stand as the second-most in major-league history, is one of over four million Americans to receive the COVID vaccine, which is now available to essential workers and elderly patients. Doctors administered Aaron’s first of two doses Tuesday at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, an experience the 86-year-old described as “wonderful.”
“I don’t have any qualms about it at all,” the Braves legend said Tuesday via Michael Warren and Ron Warren of the Associated Press. “I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this.”
Despite countless assurances by leading medical professionals, a December survey conducted by the NORC Center for Public Affairs revealed an alarming 40 percent of African Americans would still reject the vaccine if presented to them. By going for his first dose Tuesday, Aaron wanted to show those still skeptical of the vaccine they have nothing to fear. “It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.”
Due to his advanced age, putting him at a higher risk of experiencing severe COVID symptoms, Aaron was able to receive the vaccine before many others, though Morehouse plans to lower its age qualifications, reserving 500 Moderna vaccines for participants 75 and older beginning Saturday. The 65+ age bracket will be prioritized after that.
“I’ve been taking vaccines for 88 years now and I haven’t been sick,” said civil rights leader and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, who received his vaccine alongside Aaron. “The truth of it is, black folks have been living by shots and just because they did something crazy and murderous and evil back in 1931, we’re still thinking about that. We’ve got to get over that.”
Young is referring to the Tuskegee Experiment, an unethical study beginning in the 1930s that deceived African Americans into believing they were receiving free medical care from the federal government. Instead, they were given placebos with many participants left to suffer the effects of untreated syphilis. That instilled a culture of distrust toward vaccines and modern medicine, which still exists to varying degrees within the black community.
“I’m a product of vaccines,” said Young. “Why would I stop now?”