For the others, we should learn from D.A. Henderson’s example. More than anyone, Dr. Henderson is personally responsible for eliminating smallpox from Western and Central Africa.18 He said it was simple: He would travel to a village and gather everyone together so they could watch him and the local leader receive the vaccine. He was vaccinated hundreds of times, convincing village after village to accept the smallpox vaccine by this simple act.
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Following in this model, former Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama have all agreed to be vaccinated publicly, to try to convince others to follow suit.19 Having the cameras rolling as Steph Curry and Beyoncé received the vaccine would be even better. But it won’t be enough. Like Henderson’s experience with smallpox, the battle against COVID-19 will need to be fought village by village, by convincing local leaders to lead by example.
This is where you come in. Each of you is a local leader, whether or not you see yourself in that way. Those around you will look to you and the example you set. This is a difficult position to be put in, since we, better than most, understand the risks of a new vaccine. But the nation needs our help. We are tantalizingly close to an end to this nightmare. We just have to roll up our sleeves—literally!—and give everyone a push in the right direction.
Philip Seo, MD, MHS, is an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. He is director of both the Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center and the Johns Hopkins Rheumatology Fellowship Program.
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