Medical experts are refuting statements from conspiracy theorists linking baseball legend Hank Aaron's death to the COVID-19 vaccine. The Hall of Famer, who died at the age of 86 on Friday, tweeted about the vaccine earlier this month.
"I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine," he wrote on Twitter on Jan. 5. "I hope you do the same!"
I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine. I hope you do the same! https://t.co/RAlkmkCRra
— Hank Aaron (@HenryLouisAaron) January 5, 2021
The tweet provided a golden opportunity for anti-vaccination advocates such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
"Hank Aaron's tragic death is part of a wave of suspicious deaths among elderly closely following administration of COVID vaccines. He received the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 5 to inspire other Black Americans to get the vaccine," Kennedy tweeted.
#HankAaron's tragic death is part of a wave of suspicious deaths among elderly closely following administration of #COVID
#vaccines. He received the #Moderna vaccine on Jan. 5 to inspire other Black Americans to get the vaccine. #TheDefenderhttps://t.co/vbuHt22bJz
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) January 22, 2021
However, The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office said on Monday that Aaron died of natural causes, NBC News reported. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular biology and the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, predicted that people would try to take advantage of Aaron's death.
"I'm terribly sad about the loss of Hank Aaron, one of my important childhood heroes," Hotez tweeted on Friday. "In the meantime, I'm getting ready for the backlash from those who will try to exploit this and attempt to attribute his death to a COVID vaccination."
I’m terribly sad about the loss of Hank Aaron, one of my important childhood heroes. In the meantime I’m getting ready for the backlash from those who will try to exploit this and attempt to attribute his death to a #covid vaccination https://t.co/qDXAHfpS5N
— Prof Peter Hotez MD PhD (@PeterHotez) January 22, 2021
Aaron joined other activists as they took the vaccine publicly as part of an effort to quell doubts about the medicine, particularly hoping to educate Black Americans who don't trust the cure.
"We made his vaccination public so it would be used to increase vaccination," said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at the Emory University School of Medicine. "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."
"The first thing you might want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you're going to be taking was developed by an African American woman," Fauci said. "And that is just a fact."
About 40 percent of Americans said they definitely or probably would not get the coronavirus vaccine, according to the Pew Research Center. The study also found that 21 percent of adults do not intend to get vaccinated despite whatever information is revealed.