On Monday, Minaj said that her cousin in Trinidad, where the superstar is from, “won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen.”
“Oh my goodness, people have been saying this about every vaccine since I can remember,” said Maldonado, who also chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases. “There is no evidence that this vaccine will affect development or fertility.”
Minaj also suggested that she isn’t vaccinated, saying that she’s waiting until she feels that she’s “done enough research.”
That line of thinking feels a bit rash, though, and maybe even misreads the broader dynamics of celebrity influence in politics.
Minaj is hardly the only celebrity whose sway has come under scrutiny — and she certainly won’t be the last.
Crucially, celebrities aren’t persuasive all the time over all issues. Their influence is complicated by a variety of factors, such as their expertise, their affiliations with advocacy groups and their connection to the issue (think Ellen DeGeneres or Billy Porter on LGBTQ rights).
But Harvey argues that what we’re seeing with the coronavirus pandemic, and specifically with Covid-19 vaccines, is completely different.
“Nowadays, Nicki Minaj says something on certain issues, and it’s probably not going to move the needle at all,” Harvey said. “It’s basically going to be people on the right saying, ‘Go, Nicki Minaj. She’s great.’ And people on the left saying, ‘She’s a bad influence.’ And that’s probably the end of it.”
This isn’t to suggest that people are wrong for being irritated by Minaj’s tweets. In not squarely supporting the trove of data demonstrating the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, the rapper and singer may have helped to muddy the waters at a time when clarity is urgent.
Some leaders and doctors say they are struggling to dispel myths and misinformation about the vaccine that continues to spread in the Black community.
Dr. Jayne Morgan, the executive director of the Covid Task Force at the Piedmont Healthcare Corporation in Atlanta, said that Minaj was “scientifically irresponsible” in her tweets, and that it’d be more productive for Minaj to share information from doctors.
“(Her comments) make our work that much more difficult if we have to continue to battle misinformation,” Morgan told CNN.
CNN’s Nicquel Terry Ellis contributed to this report.