On April 18 – the eve of eligibility for all adult Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine – a slew of celebrities, presidents past and present, doctors and everyday people joined together to discuss the importance of getting vaccinated.
“Would you join me in helping to spread the word?” Michelle Obama opened the special via Zoom, inviting Jennifer Lopez, Faith Hill and Lin-Manuel Miranda, plus Russell Wilson and Ciara, who would host, to share in her excitement.
Famous faces popped in to share their vaccination stories, whether filmed in person, a la Joe Jonas and President George W. Bush, or in virtual conversation, as with President Barack Obama, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. Between friendly jabs, they mentioned how getting vaccinated helps fight emerging variants and protects family members with underlying conditions.
Doctors you may have seen on the silver screen, such as Meredith Grey of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, dispelled rumors and upheld truths about the vaccine in conversation with Dr. Vin Gupta.
Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, walked viewers through one of Walgreens’ vaccination clinic at Chicago’s Zoe Life Ministries. Melanie Owens and Stephen Fadowole, Chicago-area Walgreens pharmacists, remark on how beneficial the clinics are in making the vaccine more accessible to underserved communities. Brewer then introduced special guest Jennifer Hudson, who calmed the nerves of one lucky vaccine recipient with a solo performance.
In a powerful segment, actor Sterling K. Brown acknowledges the medical horrors that Black people have endured, specifically the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He credits Onesimus, an enslaved Bostonian, who brought the concept of inoculation that was practiced in his village in Africa to Boston during a smallpox outbreak. Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the leading developers of the Moderna vaccine, was featured as a modern-day example of African Americans who have significantly contributed to humanity’s medical advancements. In Brown’s words, “We cannot rewrite history, but we can celebrate our heroes who have changed the face of medicine forever.”
Viewers were then treated to a message from President Joe Biden. Speaking from the White House, he reconfirms his promise that Americans can have a safe and happy Fourth of July celebration if we continue the positive trend of vaccination rates. He thanks those who have gotten vaccinated, and reminds those who need a second dose to complete the process.
If that wasn’t convincing enough, take it from comedian Billy Crystal, who closed the special. He reflects on his vaccination at Dodger Stadium and his plans to celebrate the birthday he shares with his grandson. Only this year, said Crystal, “I can’t give him toilet paper."
To watch the full replay of “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” presented by Walgreens, created by ATTN: and aired on NBC, please visit NBC.com.