Scientists fight new source of vaccine misinformation: Aaron Rodgers

This spring he was auditioning to host “Jeopardy!” Almost daily, he appears in television commercials for national brands like State Fa...


This spring he was auditioning to host “Jeopardy!” Almost daily, he appears in television commercials for national brands like State Farm Insurance. And on Sundays this fall, he led the Green Bay Packers to a division-best 7-2 record.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t just the reigning NFL MVP, he’s a celebrity who transcends the nation’s most popular sport, a household name on par with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

So when news broke he tested positive for coronavirus last week and was not vaccinated, Rodgers justified his decision not to be vaccinated by denouncing the highly effective vaccines and spewing out a flood of disinformation and unwanted science. Health professionals have been discouraged not only because it will be more difficult for them to persuade adults to get the vaccine, but because they are also start vaccinating 5 to 11 year olds.

“When you’re a celebrity, you’re given a platform,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “When you choose to do what Aaron Rodgers does, which is to use the platform to spread misinformation that could lead people to make bad decisions for themselves or their children, then you have done wrong. “

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

Rodgers is in the middle of a 10-day isolation period and did not play in the Packers’ 13-7 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Like all unvaccinated NFL players who test positive, Rodgers must provide two negative tests, 24 hours apart, after his isolation to return to the field, which could come as early as Saturday.

The lasting damage caused by Rodgers’ position, however, cannot be measured in dollars or games lost or won. Vaccination rates in the NFL are very high compared to the general population. Almost all of the coaches and staff who interact with the players are vaccinated, and 94% of the estimated 2,000 players have also been vaccinated, according to the league.

But given the league’s popularity, even the handful of unvaccinated players receive inordinate 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 candid about their decisions. Rodgers, on the other hand, avoided answering directly when asked if he was vaccinated. He said he was “immune”.

In an interview on The Pat McAfee Show Last week Rodgers said he was following his own “vaccination protocol,” although he did not provide details on what that involved. But vaccination and natural infection are the only ways to gain immunity against the virus, the scientists said.

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

But many of his statements on the show echo those made by people in the anti-vaccine movement.

“Aaron Rodgers is a smart guy,” said David O’Connor, University of Wisconsin-Madison virologist and Packers fan. But, he added, “He is still vulnerable to the blitz from the blind side of disinformation.”

In the interview, Rodgers suggested that the fact that people were still receiving and still dying from Covid-19 meant that the vaccines weren’t very effective.

Although imperfect, vaccines offer extremely strong protection against the worst consequences of infection, including hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated Americans, for example, are about 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than vaccinated Americans, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As for people hospitalized with Covid, the vast majority are unvaccinated people,” said Angela Rasmussen, virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan. “And the overwhelming majority of transmission is from unvaccinated people to other unvaccinated people.”

Rodgers also expressed concern that vaccines could cause fertility problems, a common talking point in the anti-vaccine movement. There are no proof whether vaccines affect fertility in men or women.

“These claims have been made since the vaccines first arrived on the scene, and they have clearly been addressed many times,” said Dr William Schaffner, vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University. He added: “The vaccines are safe and incredibly effective. “

A few potentially serious adverse events have been linked to the vaccines, including a bleeding disorder and inflammation of the heart muscle, but they are very rare. Experts agree that the health risks associated with Covid-19 far outweigh those of vaccination.

Rodgers said he ruled out mRNA vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, because he had an allergy to an unspecified ingredient they contained.

Such allergies are possible – a small number of people are allergic to polyethylene glycol, which is found in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – but extremely rare. For example, there was roughly 11 cases of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, for every million doses of Pfizer vaccine given, according to a CDC study.

The public health agency recommend to people with a known allergy to an ingredient in any of the mRNA vaccines did not receive these vaccines, but some scientists expressed skepticism that Rodgers did indeed have a known and documented allergy. Even if he had, he might have been eligible for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is based on a different technology.

Rodgers also took aim at the NFL, almost defying the league to fine him. He claimed, for example, that the league had sent a “sidekick” to the Packers’ training camp to “shame” players for getting vaccinated. He said he did not follow certain protocols, such as wearing a mask when speaking to reporters, because he disagreed with them.

Like many star athletes, Rodgers has worked hard to shape his own narrative. But it can come at a cost, as the hindsight of his comments showed.

“The challenge for players now is that it’s so easy for them to go on podcasts and tweet,” said Brad Shear, an attorney who advises NFL players on technology and social media. “I tell the players to stay on the script, to have notes handy and when you have a difficult question, deflect. His upkeep was like a car accident that got worse.

Although the league does not have a timeline for completing its investigation, the backlash has been quick. Prevea Health, a primary care provider in Wisconsin, ended his partnership with Rodgers the day after his interview was published. State Farm, which has employed Rodgers as a spokesperson for years, said he did not support some of Rodgers’ statements done (without specifying which), but that it respects “the right of everyone to make a choice”.

On Sunday, just 1.5% of all State Farm TV commercials included Rodgers, up from around 25% the previous two Sundays, according to data collected by Apex Marketing, which monitors and tracks national media and branding.

TV commentators including Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, also called Rodgers for potentially putting his teammates in danger and for not being honest. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went further. “Aaron Rodgers not only lied, he damaged professional sport as well” he wrote.

Rodgers is no stranger to controversy. Over much of his 17 years in the NFL, he created a divisive image for himself on a range of issues. End of April, ESPN reported that Rodgers was so “unhappy” with the Packers that he told team members he didn’t want to return to Green Bay. Team general manager Brian Gutekunst, who was busy preparing for the draft, had to publicly state that Rodgers would not be traded.

Rodgers also used his talent for calculated disruption in 2020, when he tried to convince other players to vote against a proposed working deal, as it contained a path to adding a 17th game to the season. regular. (The players narrowly approved the deal.)

Rodgers made the news not just because he’s an elite quarterback, but because he’s an elite quarterback in the nation’s most popular sports league. Every problem is magnified when the NFL is involved, whether it’s bullying, domestic violence, protests during the national anthem and other issues. This is why Rodgers’ stance on vaccines has caused so much anxiety among scientists.

Dr O’Connor said he “cringed his teeth” when he heard Rodgers had not been vaccinated, especially given the number of people in Wisconsin who have yet to receive their vaccines; 63 percent of state residents received at least one dose of the vaccine, up from a rate of 67 percent nationally.

“Within the community where he plays, there is still a lot of work to be done to improve immunization,” he said.

The timing, just as the vaccination campaign for young children kicks off, is particularly unfortunate, said Dr Schaffner.

“He’s a much loved and much admired sports figure,” he said of Rodgers. “We would like clear role models to be there to get the vaccine, and we certainly don’t want deceptive behavior role models. “



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Newsrust - US Top News: Scientists fight new source of vaccine misinformation: Aaron Rodgers
Scientists fight new source of vaccine misinformation: Aaron Rodgers
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