What LeBron James is wrong about vaccine activism
Kevork DjansezianGetty Images
A A few weeks ago – almost five months after the first questions from European journalists about his vaccination status – NBA megastar LeBron James announced that he had indeed been vaccinated against Covid-19. Explaining his decision, he said he chose to protect himself and those around him, but also that he would not use his platform to encourage others to get vaccinated. “We are talking about the bodies of individuals,” he said. “Not anything political or racism or police brutality or things of that nature.”
His position is familiar. When my Aunt Deb got the shot, I had hoped she would share a vaccine selfie in our family group chat, to encourage other family members to do the same. As a resident doctor in internal medicine, focused on primary care for the marginalized, I know that social cues from trusted family members can be essential in breaking the reluctance to immunize. When I insisted on my aunt on this, however, she refused and I remember she said, “Look, this is an individual decision. Let people make their choice. “
But two things can be true: getting vaccinated is both an individual and a collective decision. And LeBron James, with his outsized influence, should not only recognize the full reality, but go further and encourage those who will listen to him to get the shot.
It is tempting to treat vaccination only as a private matter. All of us who opt for it subject our deltoid muscles to some trauma, and some of us have to endure a day or two of fever, chills, and night sweats. Few public policy measures are felt more viscerally by all who comply with them. But the advantages of vaccines far outweigh the disadvantages and go beyond personal protection. Because vaccines help break the chain of infection, we all stand to gain when people around us are vaccinated. The concept of herd immunity crystallizes this idea: when enough people in a community are immune to a pathogen, it has so few places to go that it eventually becomes extinct. Even among the vaccinated, the chances of suffering from a breakthrough infection are higher in areas with low vaccination rates and high infection rates. Additionally, some people have underlying conditions that prevent them from getting the vaccine – or that make the vaccine ineffective for them. They have no choice but to rely on the rest of us to protect them from the risk of infection. In other words, vaccination is not simply a matter of individual choice; it is also showing solidarity with others.
And while it might not seem the case at first glance, community-level vaccination is no less a social justice issue than racism, police brutality, and other political causes that James has deemed worthy of his activism. Ample evidence has highlighted how structural racism shaped disproportionately high rates of Covid-19 infections and mortality in black, Indigenous and Hispanic communities, and racial disparities in vaccine uptake during early stages. vaccine deployment. Lower vaccination rates among blacks may at least partly explain why Washington, DC, for example, saw its gap in Covid-19 infection rates between whites and blacks widen dramatically last spring. ; Black residents have gone from 46% of the city’s new cases in December 2020 to 82% of new cases in May 2021.
A recent study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, evaluated data from more than 3 million fully vaccinated patients in the Veterans Health Administration system and found that those vaccinated blacks and Hispanics were more susceptible to breakthrough infections than their white counterparts. This disparity is likely attributable to racial disparities in the use of vaccination and to our racially segregated society and social networks. In other words, the diminished returns of vaccination are also shaped by racism.
To be clear, celebrities don’t have to tackle social problems when governments fail. To borrow in the language of James, they are individuals and can use their currency as they wish. But LeBron James – who has made huge investments in educating children in the inner city where he grew up – already understands that to whom you give a lot, you expect a lot. And while some experts disagree on the extent to which celebrity endorsements influence people’s health behaviors, including the Covid-19 vaccination, there is some evidence that the power of the stars can make a real difference. difference.
When Angelina Jolie announced in a 2013 New York Times essay that she had had a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for a BRCA1 mutation – a genetic condition that predisposes her carrier women to breast and ovarian cancer – she urged other women to get tested as well. A subsequent research study found that BRCA screening rates in women rose sharply in the weeks after the trial was published. Beyond screening rates, rates of unsafe mastectomies also increased in the months that followed. Some call it the “Angelina Jolie effect”. Likewise, following Tom Hanks’ March 2020 announces that he has contracted the new coronavirus, an online survey conducted by social scientists found that fans of the actor who heard the news have become more likely to take Covid-19 safety precautions.
We cannot yet predict what effect James would have on immunization in the general population, if he leveraged his platform to promote it. But he has a massive and loyal fan base of over 50 million Twitter followers and almost twice as many Instagram followers. According to a poll, he is the NBA player that fans want to spend time with the most. And research tells us that the people who feel the most affinity with a celebrity are the most likely to change their behavior following a celebrity health announcement. It’s not hard to imagine the ripple effects that an outright endorsement of a James’ vaccine would have on social media.
Choosing to get vaccinated may seem like a purely personal decision. In reality, it is as much, if not more, community. I think LeBron James acknowledges this in part, hence his gratitude that he got the vaccine in part to protect his family and friends. He has shown exceptional leadership in speaking out and investing in addressing social issues related to racial inequality. Confronting low vaccine uptake publicly would be no different. Covid-19 has taken its toll on communities of color, and LeBron James has the power to help curb this horror. But only if he wishes.
This article originally appeared on Undark. Read the original article.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported to this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and other similar content on piano.io