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Elvis convinced people to take Polio vaccine, could a famous Washingtonian do the same for COVID?

Allison Miller, a nurse, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Alan Goto, a paramedic with the Seattle Fire Department, at the UW Medical Center on Dec.15, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine rolled out in Washington on Tuesday morning. The big question now, though, is whether enough people are willing to get the injection when it’s available to the public.

According to a Gallup poll from October, 58% of Americans said they’d be willing to get vaccinated, which is up from previous surveys, but still might not be enough to reach herd immunity.

Fortunately, it’s not the first time in American history we’ve struggled with this problem.

In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was considered safe and effective. A lot of children were vaccinated, but teenagers didn’t realize they were at risk, and weren’t as likely to get it.

About a year later, after a performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis Presley received a polio vaccine on air.

In a CNN opinion piece, journalist and historian David M. Perry credits this broadcast with convincing young people to get the vaccine, and contributed to the eventual triumph over the disease.

The problem now is we don’t really have an Elvis anymore. Who is the Presley of 2020? Baby Yoda?

Because the internet fractured our pop culture into a million smaller slices, there’s not an obvious pop star to go to for any vaccine public relations needs. We’ll need to find multiple different kinds of pop stars to reach multiple different demographics.

I suggest we break it up by region. Each state should find a public figure willing to get the vaccine on camera, and then release the video in hopes it convinces the residences of that state to get on board.

I searched for “Famous Washingtonians” to try to come up with some ideas for us. I’ve also included my thoughts about whether they’d be a good fit for this:

  • Bill Gates: He’s actually agreed to do this, but I’m not convinced it will help. Most of my Facebook feed seems to be already convinced Gates is putting some kind of mind-control device into the vaccine. Him making a big show of getting it might actually make things worse.
  • Chrissy Teigen: I don’t think you even need to ask her to do this, I bet she just will. I don’t know that it would actually result in any more vaccinations, but I would probably watch it.
  • Macklemore: I actually think this would make the vaccine seem way less cool.
  • Craig T. Nelson: Did you know he was born in Spokane? I didn’t until now. I think he’d be a great pick mainly because I know my parents know who he is.
  • Loren Culp: I think Culp would actually be the most impactful choice. It seems like he could really change some minds. Would he be willing? I don’t think so. I suggest we also offer to vaccinate his guns, the things he really cares about. Might make him more amenable.

The KIRO Radio Rundown Podcast collects takes from each KIRO Radio host on the biggest stories of the week and puts them in one place. Released Tuesdays and Thursdays by 7 p.m.

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