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Vice President–elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday morning, the latest in a slew of public officials whose shots have been aired on TV in an effort to boost trust in the coronavirus vaccines.
"I urge everyone, when it is your turn, to get vaccinated. It's about saving your life, the life of your family members, and the life of your community," Harris said.
She was administered the first dose of the vaccine by Patricia Cummings, a nurse and Guyanese immigrant, at the United Medical Center in Washington, DC.
"I want to remind people that right in your community is where you can take the vaccine, where you will receive the vaccine, by folks you may know," she said. "Folks who are working in the same hospital where your children were born. Folks who are working in the same hospital where an elderly relative received the kind of care they needed."
Harris is the most prominent Black and Asian official who has been vaccinated on live TV to date. Infection and death rates in the US are far higher in communities of color — especially among Black, Indigenous, and Latino people — than they are among white people. Distrust of the COVID-19 vaccines, which were developed and approved in record time, is also prevalent among communities of color, which have a history of medical mistreatment and abuse.
In an interview on MSNBC last week, Harris acknowledged the wariness toward the vaccine among people of color.
"When we look at, in particular, when we're talking about racial demographics in terms of the impact, Black folks, Latinos, our Indigenous brothers and sisters are so many more times likely to contract COVID and die from it," she said. "I'm going to put as much as I can into helping people trust what the public health experts are telling us [about the vaccine]."
President-elect Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence, and members of Congress have also been vaccinated in recent weeks, along with frontline healthcare workers.
Even with the nationwide vaccination campaign well underway, the US is at a dire point in the pandemic, with infection rates surging, and hospitalizations and deaths overloading facilities and exhausting healthcare workers.
Nearly 20 million people in the US have had the coronavirus, and more than 335,000 people have died. An unknown number of people who have survived are still struggling with long-term health issues months after being infected.