Health Professionals Hope Hank Aaron's Death Won't Deter People From Getting Vaccinated

About two weeks before his death on Friday at 86 years old, baseball legend Hank Aaron was among a group of civil rights icons to received a COVID-19 vaccine in Atlanta. In the immediate aftermath, health experts hope that the loss of the Home Run King doesn't deter people from getting vaccinated.

Aaron received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine on January 5 during a widely publicized event. Besides Aaron, civil rights activists Andrew Young, Xernona Clayton, Joy Beasley, and others also received the vaccine. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also attended the event.

At the time, Aaron spoke about wanting to reassure people and do his part to slow the virus's spread. "When you see Andy Young, myself and some of the other civil rights leaders, it makes you feel good. For so long, they have opened themselves to do things to help so many other people," the Hall of Famer told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "If I can do something to help prolong someone's career, that's what I want to do."

Following Aaron's death, a number of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers shared the Braves legend's death as a warning about the perceived dangers of the COVID vaccine. Children's Health Defense, an organization that has shared other anti-vax propaganda, highlighted Aaron's vaccination and indicated that a cause of death was not shared.

Some people on Twitter appeared to blame the vaccine for Aaron's death.

"Hank Aaron takes covid vaccine to send a message. Well message received sir. Guess I'm about to be unemployed," one user wrote.

So you're just going to leave out that the vaccine killed Hank Aaron?

— Yah's Servant (@yah_servant) January 22, 2021

Hank Aaron takes covid vaccine to send a message. Well message received sir. Guess I'm about to be unemployed. RIP Hammering Hank.

— Blackmentalhealth (@Haywoodpeoples1) January 22, 2021

Despite some people's skepticism, health officials and those who received the COVID vaccine with him said they hope that it doesn't discourage people from getting vaccinated. Noting that trials did not indicate that vaccines could be a cause of death, former director at the CDC's immunization program and a professor at the Emory Vaccine Center, Dr. Walter A. Orenstein, told the AJC that he doesn't want people to be afraid to get the vaccine.

"My fear is people will act emotionally and not get vaccinated," he said. "My fear is that people misinterpret this and say, 'Aha, see the vaccine is dangerous,' when in fact there's no science data to support that hypothesis at all."

Beasley, who received the vaccine at the same time as the former ballplayer, also told the AJC that he doesn't want this to negatively affect the trajectory of people receiving vaccines. "I hope this won't have a chilling effect on our people," he said.

Another health expert described the timing between the vaccination and Aaron's death as "coincidental," saying that these things can still happen within a close time frame to receiving the vaccine.

Newsweek reached out to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for comment.

Hank Aaron Home Run COVID vaccine
Fans pay tribute with flowers after the death of MLB Hall of Famer Hank Aaron at The Battery Atlanta on January 22, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Hank Aaron died on January 22 at the age of 86. Paras Griffin/Getty