Music | December 22, 2020 6:30 am

Elvis Presley Got Vaccinated So You’d Get Vaccinated

If Elvis got the COVID vaccine, would you?

elvis presley playing guitar
I saw Elvis Presley get a polio vaccine, so I got a polio vaccine.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Back in 1956, Elvis Presley received a polio inoculation on the set of the Ed Sullivan Show just before going onstage to perform. The photo op hoped to encourage skeptical Americans to embrace the vaccine, and by all accounts, it worked. Presley’s influence is thought to have dramatically shifted attitudes in the vaccine’s favor, particularly among the nation’s rock ‘n’ roll crazed youth.

The Elvis polio photo op is an early example of a continuing trend in public health publicity, as Norman Vanamee noted in a recent Town & Country article. Today, as the world once again greets another new vaccine with mixed reactions, public figures are broadcasting their COVID-19 vaccinations in the hope of fostering pro-vaccine sentiment and convincing opposed parties to get stuck when their time comes.

While Vice President Mike Pence received backlash for getting his vaccination on live television last week after downplaying the pandemic, the VP’s public vaccination just might convert some vaccine skeptics among his supporters. While Mike Pence wields a very different public reputation than a midcentury rock star of Elvis’s stature, he still presumably holds some influence in certain circles, and every vaccine counts.

Other public figures hoping to sway public opinion in the vaccine’s favor by publicizing their vaccinations include actor Ian McKellen, who shared his treatment on Instagram. Dr. Anthony Fauci, and former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all offered to undergo public vaccinations as well.

Today’s public figures hope to take a page from Elvis Presley’s book, using their celebrity status to encourage vaccine skeptics to follow in their footsteps — or, in the very least, to ask themselves, “What would Elvis do?”