Three former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have said they would be willing to get a vaccine for Covid-19 publicly to help ensure public confidence in its safety, once a vaccine is approved for use in the United States.
“I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it,” Mr. Obama said during an interview with SiriusXM’s Joe Madison, set to air Thursday. “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don’t trust is getting Covid.”
During the interview, Mr. Obama said he understood why some members of minority groups might be skeptical of being vaccinated, pointing to the history of medical abuse and the mistrust it has engendered among Black people. Among the abuses was the 40-year-long Tuskegee study in which officials from the U.S. Public Health Service allowed Black men infected with syphilis to go untreated.
Mr. Obama also discussed the disproportionate number of coronavirus cases and deaths among Black, Hispanic and Native American people. Black and Latino residents are about three times as likely to be infected with the coronavirus and about twice as likely to die from it.
It could take until May or June, according to federal officials, for a vaccine to become more widely available to the general public beyond those who are most at-risk and certain priority groups such as health care workers.
President Bush’s chief of staff, Freddy Ford, told CNN on Thursday that the former president had reached out to public health officials to see how he could help promote the vaccine.
“First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations,” Mr. Ford told the news outlet. “Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”
President Clinton’s press secretary, Angel Urena, told CNN that the former president would also be willing to take the vaccine publicly as soon as it was available to him.
“And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same,” he said.