On February 1, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar penned a New York Times op-ed calling for NBA players to set an example by taking vaccines for the coronavirus, in order to instill faith in the process among the Black community, due to hesitancy stemming from years of (justified) distrust. Abdul-Jabbar noted data highlighting the anxiety in his Times piece.
Among the groups that are reluctant to be vaccinated: African-Americans and adults under age 35. Other groups have increasingly embraced the idea of being vaccinated. Those 65 or older willing to get the shots increased to 87 percent in January from 60 percent in October, those 50 to 64 are up to 69 percent from 48 percent, and those 35 to 49 rose to 58 percent from 48 percent. However, those under 35 have stayed level at 55 percent, and only 62 percent of African-American adults said they are willing to get a vaccination.
Some of that apprehension stems from the infamous and deadly Tuskegee Experiments, which began in 1932.
To combat this perception, Abdul-Jabbar suggested an “exception”:
Of course, I would like to see the NBA season in full swing, with all the players safely inoculated, but not at the expense of those whose lives are in immediate danger. The exception: those receiving the shots as part of a sustained campaign to bring vaccination awareness to communities most in need of persuasion. N.B.A. players, 81.1 percent of whom are Black, appeal to the under-35 and African-American demographics.
Today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, contrary to Abdul-Jabbar’s hopes, that players themselves have been wary of taking the vaccine in general. Woj wrote:
The NBA’s outreach to the agents of many of the league’s elite players — with hopes of getting stars to participate in PSAs to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine — has been met with a tepid response, sources said. Player apprehensions about receiving the vaccine are consistent with those that also exist in Black communities throughout the country, agents and players told ESPN.
Sources describe a number of factors contributing to many players’ reluctance to participate, including uncertainty about taking the vaccine themselves, reluctance to advocate its use for others and resistance to extending favors to a league amid the largely unpopular plans for an All-Star Game.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, told CNN that his original hope of April as a target for widespread vaccine availability among non-priority groups could be pushed back.
‘That timeline will probably be prolonged into mid- to late May and early June,’ Fauci told CNN.”
According to Bloomberg, only 56.1 million vaccines had been distributed in America as of February 16, and in the last week, the United States has averaged 1.67 million doses per day.