Vaccines and US

Kevin Gover


Hi everybody, I'm Kevin Gover, Under Secretary for Museums and Culture here at the Smithsonian. Thanks for giving me a couple of minutes to talk about my vaccine story.

So in in in 2019, I was traveling for on business for the Smithsonian and as I got on the plane I, you know I wasn't feeling very good, but I thought, well, hell you know I'm a strong guy. I mean my immune system has always taken care of me so I'm going to go ahead. Well, long story short, I ended up in the hospital for a week in Phoenix, AZ and it wasn't COVID, and the doctors never really figured out what it was, but it was a problem with my lungs. So, I just wanted to share with you that that was bad as I've ever felt in my life. And the worst part of it was that you know, I just couldn't I couldn't breathe deeply. I was on oxygen for the entire week I was in the hospital and for another six weeks after that I required supplemental oxygen just to be able to be around, not to be up doing anything, but just to be able to breathe. And I don't ever want to feel like that again.

So when we get we began to learn about COVID. Of course, I was quite alarmed. Having had that experience only a year earlier when COVID broke out and so I was taking all the right precautions, the same as you. I was wearing a mask everywhere I went. I was washing my hands all the time. I was keeping my distance from other people.

But it was a huge relief to me when the vaccination came out. And, of course, like many of you, I come from a community that has many reasons to distrust the medical establishment and to even to distrust medical science.

But after thinking about it, I decided that I did want to be vaccinated and part of the reason for that is that this pandemic was absolutely devastating in many Native American communities at
the Navajo Nation in particular, that the Mississippi Choctaw at the Creek Nation in Oklahoma.
People that I knew, uh, caught COVID and some of them died.

So, one of the things I had to think about was whether or not I thought the vaccination was particularly risky for myself, or even particularly beneficial to myself. Part of my reasoning was simply this that you know if I got COVID and I got sick, that was kind of on me and it was my choice whether to be vaccinated. But what I really couldn't live with with the idea that if I don't get vaccinated, I might get COVID and I might give it to somebody else. And that really put me over to say yes, I'm going to do this. I'm going to get vaccinated. For myself, but also for the people I love. So I hope everyone will think about that.

I hope that if if you're eligible to be vaccinated, you will, unless you have a specific medical reason that your doctor is has given you not to be vaccinated. 
I really do hope that that you will get vaccinated for your own sake because we need you, we want you at the Smithsonian, and we want you to thrive. But also, for the sake of all the people in your life. Both, at work, but more importantly at home.

So that's my that's my vaccine story and I hope we'll get to hear your vaccine story one of these days. Thanks for listening.

Kevin Gover, Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Museums and Culture, explains how his own health experiences and feelings of personal responsibility informed his choice to get vaccinated.