Former presidents, first ladies urge Americans to get COVID-19 vaccine

By ZEKE MILLER (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON March 11, 2021 4:26 p.m.

Four former presidents are urging Americans to get vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 doses are available to them, as part of a campaign to overcome hesitancy about the shots.

Two public service announcements from the Ad Council and the business-supported COVID Collaborative feature former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as first ladies Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Rosalynn Carter. All of them have received doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Barack Obama, on the right, wraps his right arm around George Bush in an embrace while he points to something they're both looking at. Both are wearing face masks and coats.

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush look up to the crowd as they arrive for the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington.

Andrew Harnik / AP

In a 60-second spot, the former presidents say what they're most looking forward to once the pandemic ends.

Clinton, 74, says he wants to “go back to work and I want to be able to move around." Obama, 59, says he wants to be able to visit with his mother-in-law, “to hug her, and see her on her birthday.” Bush, 74, talks about “going to opening day in Texas Rangers stadium with a full stadium.”

Carter, 96, says he got vaccinated to help end the pandemic “as soon as possible.”

The video features photos of the former presidents and their spouses with syringes in their upper arms as they urge Americans to “roll up your sleeve and do your part” by getting vaccinated.


A separate 30-second ad was filmed hours after President Joe Biden's inauguration at Arlington National Cemetery. It features Bush, Obama and Clinton encouraging vaccinations.

From left to right, Michelle and Barak Obama, Laura and George W. Bush, Hillary and Bill Clinton stand on the steps of the tomb while facing forward. They're all dressed in winter clothes and wearing face masks.

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura and former President Bill Clinton and his wife former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Arlington, Va.

Evan Vucci / AP

“The science is clear,” Bush says. “These vaccines will protect you and those you love from this dangerous and deadly disease.” Obama calls them, the “first step to ending the pandemic and moving our country forward.”

Former President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, do not appear in the campaign. Trump was still in office when the ex-presidents' project began in December, according to the Ad Council, and he did not attend President Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, when Obama, Bush and Clinton gathered together in person to film. A Trump adviser revealed last week that the Trumps were vaccinated in private before leaving the White House on Inauguration Day.

The ad campaign comes as U.S. supply of coronavirus vaccines continues to ramp up and as public health experts worry that some Americans may choose not to get vaccinated, which would slow the country’s path toward “herd immunity” to the virus.

The “It's Up to You” campaign encourages Americans to visit to get the facts about the vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also involved in the education initiative.


Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.