Civil Rights leaders posing with Dr. Rice



Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, Civil Rights Leader and Broadcasting Executive Xernona Clayton, HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan and MLB Legend Henry “Hank” Aaron to Join Morehouse School of Medicine to Promote Vaccine Acceptance in the Black Community

ATLANTA—January 5, 2021-- Former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, veteran broadcasting executive Xernona Clayton and Major League Baseball homerun king Hank Aaron are among those set to receive COVID-19 vaccinations at Morehouse School of Medicine, the institution announced today. The event is designed to encourage Black America to get immunized.

“They marched to the polls to secure our rights,” said Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean, “And now, they are rolling up their sleeves to save lives. The way to stop the devastating impact of COVID-19 in the Black community is to get the vaccines into black arms.”

The four iconic figures, their spouses and other civil and human rights leaders—all of whom are over 75 years of age and a part of the designated Class 1A on the vaccine priority list--  will receive the first round of immunizations at the Morehouse Healthcare Clinic at Lee Street beginning at 11 a.m., Tuesday January 5. They will be administered an immunization developed by Moderna, which has demonstrated a 94.5% effective rate and is generally well tolerated. The vaccines are being provided by Atlanta-based Grady Health System, one of the largest public safety net systems in the United States.  

Morehouse School of Medicine—a private and independent historically Black medical school-- and its partners are devoted to helping dispel fears about the vaccine particularly among older Black people who are among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. In the United States, COVID-19 continues to exact a disproportionate impact on Black communities and other people of color—both in rates of infections and death— as positive cases escalate.

“I am honored to join with other civil and human rights leaders to inspire vaccine participation because we represent a generation hardest hit by this global pandemic,” said Ms. Clayton.

As far back as I can remember I have taken vaccines - before I went to elementary school; before college and for my travels across 141 out of 195 countries. Vaccines have kept me safe for 88 years.”
 Ambassador Andrew Young

In addition to promoting personal safety protocols—washing your hands, watching your distance and wearing a mask—the leaders are hoping more Black people will participate in clinical trials and take federally-approved immunizations. An approved vaccine allocation site, the event kicks off a community-based vaccine series that begins Saturday, January 9.

“As far back as I can remember I have taken vaccines - before I went to elementary school; before college and for my travels across 141 out of 195 countries. Vaccines have kept me safe for 88 years,” said Ambassador Young, who is also a former congressman and mayor of Atlanta. “After my time with the United Nations, I traveled all over Africa encouraging people to take the polio vaccine.  I’ve always been involved in the proliferation of vaccinations and preventive medicine and, by God’s grace, I’ve have never had a negative reaction.” Dr. Sullivan, who was the founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, said he was especially pleased to take the vaccine at the medical school which he believes is uniquely qualified to help curtail the pandemic in communities of color.

“Since our founding more than 45 years ago, Morehouse School of Medicine’s mission has been to improve health care in minority and underserved communities,” said Dr. Sullivan. “We have a specific obligation to do all we can to stop the spread of a disease that is taking a tremendous toll on the communities we have served for more than four decades.”

Aaron and his wife, Billye Suber Aaron, who contributed $3 million to the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2015 to support the construction of new campus pavilion, commended the medical school for its leadership in the midst of the pandemic.

“I am so proud of Morehouse School of Medicine for efforts to remain in the forefront of the country’s response to COVID-19,” he said. “And I am honored to join the medical school in combatting vaccine hesitancy. Its new Morehouse Healthcare clinic in Atlanta’s historic West End is a tremendous investment and resource in the effort to erase health inequity in underserved communities.”

Morehouse Healthcare’s new state-of-the-art clinic near the Atlanta University Center on Lee Street opened in November.  The facility offers patients access to a modern research center capable of providing advanced, compassionate whole-life care including a full spectrum of regular, urgent, acute, and specialized care including radiology, cardiology, and OB-GYN services.

As a Phase III vaccine trial site for Novavax, Morehouse School of Medicine is helping to recruit a diverse pool of participants and recently received a $40 million federal grant from the HHS Office of Minority Health to fight COVID-19 in ethnic and underserved communities.

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Nicole Linton
(404) 202-8991

Bill Crane
(404) 964-6071

About Morehouse School of Medicine

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), located in Atlanta, Ga., was founded in 1975 as the Medical Education Program at Morehouse College. In 1981, MSM became an independently chartered institution. MSM is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians and was recently recognized as the top institution among U.S. medical schools for our social mission. Our faculty and alumni are noted in their fields for excellence in teaching, research and public policy.

MSM is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Council on Education for Public Health, Liaison Committee on Medical Education and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.