In the days before his death, baseball legend Hank Aaron tried to set an example for the Black community by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. He urged others to do the same, knowing that Black Americans are less likely to get vaccinated.
Now, in the days after his death, Aaron’s endorsement of the vaccination is being used by conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers to undermine his work.
They’re claiming — baselessly — that Aaron died because of the vaccine. In fact, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office said Monday that Aaron died of natural causes. The Braves announced that Aaron, 86, died in his sleep.
But it’s a sign of the times that people, especially on social media, will jump to their own conclusions. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaxxer and lawyer, has led the spread of misinformation here — calling Aaron’s death “suspicious” even though there’s no proof of that.
This seemed like a predictable outcome, based on how the world operates in 2021. Dr. Carlos del Rio, the executive associate dean at the Emory University School of Medicine, talked to NBC News and said Aaron choosing to get vaccinated publicly proved to be a “double-edged sword.”
"We make his vaccination public so it would be used to increase vaccination," del Rio said Monday. "Unfortunately, because his vaccination was made public and then he died, now we have a little bit of a boomerang effect in which it's coming to haunt us because he died."
But in reality, del Rio said he had "absolute confidence that his death has nothing to do with the vaccine and it has to do with the fact that he was old and frail."
Aaron proved himself a hero in his life — the kind who hit a record number of home runs and the kind who helped advance Black Americans during the civil rights fight. In his final days, he still tried to do what he thought was right.
Don’t let a conspiracy theory lead you to believe otherwise.
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