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Barack Obama promotes COVID-19 vaccines alongside Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 4/19/2021 Jason Owens

Former President Barack Obama recruited some heavy hitters from the sports world to promote COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday. 

Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal joined the 44th president on a video chat to encourage all eligible Americans to get vaccinated. As of Monday, every adult in America who wants a vaccine will be eligible to receive one. 

After some banter with Obama announcing that he's playing "Kenny the Jet" and jokes about Barkley's golf game and gambling predilection, the trio got down to the business at hand. 

'This will save lives'

Obama urged that "our communities, particularly African American, Latino as well as young people understand that this will save lives and allow people to get back to normal." 

Barkley responded by announcing that he's slated to get his second dose on Monday.

"I cannot wait," Barkley said. "I think it's important for us to keep talking about the vaccine. So I'm telling all my friends. Yo, man, forget what happened back in the day. Every Black person, please go out and get vaccinated."


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O'Neal announced that he and members of his family with underlying conditions had already been vaccinated. 

Barack Obama, Shaquille O'Neal posing for a photo: This isn't the first time Barack Obama and Shaquille O'Neal have teamed up. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/file) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports This isn't the first time Barack Obama and Shaquille O'Neal have teamed up. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/file)

Obama urged young people who may not be wary about catching COVID-19 to take the new variants seriously while noting that some people are suffering effects of contracting the coronavirus months later. 

Obama: Why this isn't like Tuskegee experiment

He also addressed Barkley's reference to hesitancy in Black communities because of historic medical malpractice inflicted by the U.S. government such as the Tuskegee experiment. The 20th century experiment saw medical professionals intentionally withhold diagnosis information and treatment of Black Americans with syphilis in order to study the effects of the infection on the test subjects. At least 28 men died directly from the intentionally negligent medical treatment with many more deaths believed to be connected to medical complications.

Obama joined others in urging Black Americans not to equate the Tuskegee experiment with COVID-19 vaccines. 

"The irony is when you know about the Tuskegee experiment — what was going on there was, the government withheld treatment that was available for Black men for syphilis. It wasn't that they made them sick by giving them medicine. It's that they didn't give them medicine that they needed.

"Here's a situation where if the medicine's available, we need to take it. If the wealthy and the powerful are all lining up to get shots, that means everybody should know it's a good thing to get."

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