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Why Anthony Anderson made getting vaccinated a family affair

Anderson said he and his mother had too many risk factors to ignore the vaccines: "We checked too many of those boxes.”
Image: Anthony Anderson
Anthony Anderson.Kwaku Alston / ABC

For actor Anthony Anderson, it was not enough to take his mother and more than 20 other family members and friends to get their Covid-19 vaccine shots.

That was just a start for Black America’s favorite TV dad. The “black-ish” star and host of the game show “To Tell the Truth” has been pounding the virtual pavement with a pointed message, particularly to the Black community:

“Get your shots.”

The vaccination rate among Black Americans is generally lagging behind the national average, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. While hesitancy has stalled some from seeking vaccinations, Black and Latino adults are more likely than white adults to cite concerns about missing work related to getting the vaccination or recovering from potential side effects, according to a survey by KFF.

State and federal data indicate some progress toward vaccine parity. Since March, nearly every state reporting the race and ethnicity of vaccinated people has seen the Black share of the total vaccinated population inch toward the Black share of the general population, which is 13 percent.

Anderson is aware of the data — and that Black people have disproportionately contracted the coronavirus, making his message an urgent calling in his mind.

“It hit close to home for me,” Anderson told NBC News. He said his aunt and uncle both contracted the virus. Anderson’s 21-year-old son and his girlfriend did as well. His mother’s brother had an extended hospital stay.

“But we were fortunate in all cases — everyone has made a full recovery,” Anderson said. 

Still, he has partnered with Advil to spread the word for those who are vaccine hesitant to roll up their sleeves.

“I get it,” he said. “I was hesitant because of past medical malfeasance against Black people. But I’m an African American male, 50 years old and a diabetic. My mom is an African American woman who is a smoker and diabetic. We checked too many of those boxes.”

And when a doctor friend, during a discussion about golf, told him he trusted the vaccine, any hesitation Anderson had eroded.

“From there, I put together my group,” he said. “And I want to share our story of family and friends getting the shots together. We protected ourselves, our loved ones and our community.”

Anderson is among many celebrities of color, like singers Ciara and Jennifer Hudson, or "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who have urged fans to seek the vaccination. Anderson said he felt compelled to use his platform to encourage broader vaccination.

“I think hearing our story is being received well,” he said. “I can only share my experience. I’m hoping people will say, ‘If he did it, maybe I will go do it, too.’”

Samantha Griggs-Thompson, a dental hygienist in Chicago, said hearing from “other people I know and respect” helps such messages hit home.

“With something like this, you just don’t know, and I think it’s cool that people you recognize from TV are encouraging us to take the shots,” she said. “Not being naïve, but there is some trust that comes with it. I took the vaccine because I trust the science. But some people need pushing. If it works for those who need pushing, great. If not, at least he’s trying.”

Image: Doris Hancox and Anthony Anderson
ABC's "To Tell the Truth" stars Doris Hancox and Anthony Anderson. Christopher Willard / ABC

Anderson said taking the vaccination has provided comfort for him to, at least minimally, gather with friends — and he hopes that notion influences those who haven’t prioritized getting their shot just yet.

"For a time, no one was seeing anyone,” he said. "We were confined to our own four walls. I told friends, out of self-preservation, 'You can’t come by my house. I love you, brother, but …'"

"The vaccine relieved those tensions somewhat," he said. "We’re able to have family over in the backyard for cookouts or family dinners. You still have to be responsible, but we’re able to live a little bit more fearlessly than we have in the past year, year and a half."

He emphasized "a little bit more fearlessly" because "getting the vaccine doesn’t mean we can throw caution to the wind and go back to what you used to do," Anderson said. "I still wear my mask and encourage everyone to also."

"Mask-wearing isn’t about me protecting myself from you; it’s about you protecting yourself from me," he said. "You have to look at it like that."

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