Taking a swing at COVID-19: Olympic heavyweight champion advocates for vaccinations

Image of George Foreman flexing his arm to show off the bandage covering his vaccination. (Photo by Cody Duty, UTHealth)
Community advocate and boxing legend George Foreman encourages others to take the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Cody Duty, UTHealth)

“During this pandemic, I would wake up every day and say a prayer that I would see on the news there was a vaccine,” said George Foreman, Olympic gold medalist and two-time world heavyweight champion. “I’m so happy with the advances science has made to battle this virus.”

Foreman visited the UT Physicians Multispecialty – Victory clinic on Thursday, Jan. 14 to receive his first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. UT Physicians is the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Members of the local Houston media documented the moment. Being a Houston community advocate, the clinic appointment was significant to him for several reasons.

As a child in the 1960s, Foreman was able to receive the polio vaccine with the help of a sugar cube. Drops of the oral vaccine were placed on sugar cubes and eaten as an economical and easy way to develop community immunity against the disease that left thousands of Americans dead or paralyzed.

Sadly, Foreman’s younger brother was one of the countless children who became disabled during the polio epidemic. From that day, his family advocated for science, research, and vaccinations.

“I have had the privilege of seeing a vaccine take the fear out of a country,” Foreman recalled fondly. “Now again with this vaccine, I feel like I’ve lived two lifetimes of celebrations in honor of science.”

Foreman was joined by leaders from the university who are also working to spread vaccine awareness.

“It’s so important to have a community advocate like George Foreman lead by example during this pandemic,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, president and Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair at UTHealth and CEO of UT Physicians. “We need other champions to continue to step forward to show our patients and the world that this vaccine is safe and effective against the COVID-19 virus.”

UT Physicians Multispecialty – Victory, which provides care to an underserved area of Houston, was chosen as the location for Foreman to receive his vaccination for a special reason – it is the first community clinic outside of the Texas Medical Center to begin vaccinating patients.

“The Victory clinic serves a diverse population, with a majority of our patients being African American and Hispanic. These are two groups of people that have vocally expressed their concerns about the virus and the vaccine,” said Jeffeea Gullett, MD, internal medicine and pediatric specialist with UT Physicians and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “We are working hard to build their trust, one patient at a time.”

Minority communities are reported to have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and its repercussions, a fact that touches Foreman’s heart. He and his siblings were raised in the Fifth Ward of Houston, a vibrant community with over 90% Hispanic and Black population.

“This vaccine is for everyone and I’m proud to receive it in the heart of the community, alongside the people who make this city work,” he said.

Foreman strongly encourages those who may be hesitant about receiving vaccine to look toward science and use him as an example.

“I know it’s because of the vaccines I’ve taken that I’ve had the opportunity to make it to 72 years old,” said Foreman. “Vaccines are one of the biggest contributors to living a long, healthy, and happy life.”

UT Physicians is vaccinating patients following state and federal guidelines. Due to the vaccine supply, appointments are currently scheduled by invitation only.

For additional COVID-19 facts and resources, visit our information center.

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