Scientists Fight A New Vaccine Misinformation: Aaron Rodgers


This spring, she was auditioning to be the host of “Jeopardy!”. He appears in television commercials for national brands like State Farm insurance almost every day. And Sundays this fall led the Green Bay Packers to a league-best 7-2 record.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not only the NFL’s reigning most valuable player, but a celebrity who has surpassed the nation’s most popular sport, a household name on par with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

well When news broke that the coronavirus test was positive Rodgers, who was unvaccinated last week, justified his decision not to get vaccinated by opposing highly effective vaccines, and spreading a stream of misinformation and junk science. The courage of medical professionals not only makes it difficult to persuade adults to get vaccinated, but also Starting to vaccinate children aged 5 to 11 years.

Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. “When you become famous you are given a platform,” said Paul A. Offit. “When you choose to use the platform to expose what Aaron Rodgers did, that is, misinformation that could cause people to make bad decisions for themselves or their children, you do harm.”

The NFL is investigating whether Rodgers and Packers violated any of the league’s extensive Covid-19 protocols developed with the NFL Players Association. Rodgers admitted to defying these protocols, including attending a Halloween party with his teammates. appeared in unmasked videos. Packers and Rodgers could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for breaking the rules.

Rodgers did not play in the middle of a 10-day isolation period and the Packers’ 13-7 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Like all unvaccinated NFL players who have tested positive, Rodgers must provide two negative tests, 24 hours apart, to get back on the field as soon as he can arrive on Saturday after being isolated.

However, the permanent damage from Rodgers’ stance cannot be measured in dollars or games lost or won. Vaccination rates in the NFL are very high compared to the general population. Nearly every coach and staff member around the players have been vaccinated, and 94 percent of the around 2,000 players have been vaccinated, according to the league.

But given how popular the league is, even a handful of unvaccinated players get a lot of attention. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley and Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks Kirk Cousins ​​and Indianapolis Colts’ Carson Wentz have all been. criticized for choosing to remain unvaccinated.

But they were frank in their decisions. In contrast, Rodgers, refused to answer directly when asked if there is a vaccine. He said he was “vaccinated”.

Inside An interview on The Pat McAfee Show Last week, Rodgers said he followed his own “vaccination protocol,” but didn’t elaborate on what that entails. But the scientists said the only way to become immune to the virus is vaccination and natural infection.

In the interview, Rodgers further fueled the controversy by trying to distance himself from conspiracy theorists. “I’m, you know, some kind of anti-vaccine, not flat earth person,” he said. “I am a critical thinker.”

But many of his statements on the program mirror statements made by people in the anti-vaccine movement.

“Aaron Rodgers is a smart guy,” said David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Packers fan. However, he added, “It is still vulnerable to attack by the blind side of misinformation.”

In the interview, Rodgers suggested that the fact that people still get Covid-19 and die means that vaccines are not very effective.

Although imperfect, vaccines provide extremely powerful protection against the worst consequences of infection, including hospitalization and death. For example, unvaccinated Americans roughly 10 times more likely to be hospitalized According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than Americans.

“As for people hospitalized with COVID, it’s overwhelmingly unvaccinated people,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Organization. “And transmission is overwhelmingly directed by unvaccinated people to other unvaccinated people.”

Rodgers also expressed concern that vaccines could cause fertility problems, and this has been a common talking point in the anti-vaccine movement. there there is no evidence that vaccines affect fertility in men or women.

A vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University, Dr. “These claims have been made and openly addressed many times since vaccines were first introduced,” said William Schaffner. “The vaccines are safe and surprisingly effective,” he added.

There are several potentially serious side effects associated with vaccines, including coagulation disorder and heart muscle inflammation, but these are very rare. Experts agree that the health risks associated with Covid-19 far outweigh the risks of vaccination.

Rodgers said he rejected the mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna because he was allergic to an unspecified ingredient they contained.

Such allergies are possible—few people are allergic to the polyethylene glycol found in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines—but they are extremely rare. For example, there were roughly 11 cases of anaphylaxisOne serious allergic reaction for every million doses of Pfizer vaccine administered, according to a CDC study.

public health agency recommend to people People who are known to be allergic to an ingredient in one of the mRNA vaccines cannot receive these vaccines, but some scientists have expressed doubts that Rodgers did indeed have a known, documented allergy. Even if it did, it could be a good fit for a Johnson & Johnson vaccine based on a different technology.

Rodgers also took aim at the NFL and nearly challenged the league to fine him. For example, he claimed the league sent a “friend” to the Packers’ training camp to “embarrass” players to get vaccinated. He told reporters that he did not follow certain protocols, such as wearing a mask, because he did not agree with them.

Like many star athletes, Rodgers has worked hard to shape his own narrative. However, this can come at a cost, as the feedback on their comments shows.

“The challenge for players is that it’s too easy for them to go on podcasts and tweet,” said attorney Brad Shear, who advises NFL players on technology and social media. “I tell the actors to stick with the script, keep notes in hand, and change direction when faced with a difficult question. His interview was like a car accident that was getting worse and worse.”

The backlash was swift, although there was no timeline for finishing the league’s investigation. Prevea Health, a primary care provider in Wisconsin, ended the partnership He went public the day after his interview with Rodgers. State Farm, which has been using Rodgers as a spokesperson for years, He said he did not support some of Rodgers’ statements. (without specifying which), but respects “everyone’s right to make a choice”.

On Sunday, only 1.5 percent of all televised State Farm commercials featured Rodgers, compared to about 25 percent on the previous two Sundays. According to data collected by Apex Marketingfollowing and following national media and branding.

Television commentators, including Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, also called out Rodgers for potentially endangering his teammates and being dishonest. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has gone one step further. “Aaron Rodgers didn’t just lie, he hurt professional sports.” He wrote.

Rodgers is no stranger to controversy. For most of his 17 years in the NFL, he has built an image of opposition on a number of issues. at the end of April, ESPN reported He told his team members that Rodgers was so “disgruntled” with the Packers that he didn’t want to return to Green Bay. Busy preparing for the draft, the team’s general manager, Brian Gutekunst, had to make public that Rodgers would not be traded.

Rodgers also used his ingenuity for calculated distortion, as it included a way to add a 17th game to the regular season when he tried to persuade other players to vote against a proposed labor deal in 2020. (Players narrowly approved the deal.)

Rodgers made the news not only because he was an elite quarterback, but also because he was an elite quarterback in the nation’s most popular sports league. Whether it’s bullying, domestic violence, protests during the national anthem, and more, every issue is magnified when the NFL is involved. This is why Rodgers’ stance on vaccines has caused so much concern among scientists.

Dr. O’Connor said she was “stunned” to hear that Rodgers had not been vaccinated, especially considering the large number of people in Wisconsin who have not yet been vaccinated; 63 percent of state residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared to a national rate of 67 percent.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to improve vaccine uptake within the community it plays,” he said.

Dr. The timing that came just as the vaccination campaign for young children began was particularly unfortunate, Schaffner said.

“He’s a very respected and admired sports figure,” he said of Rodgers. “We want clear role modeling out there to get the vaccine, and we certainly don’t want role modeling of hypocritical behavior.”


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