NFL Season Preview

NFL's Sills says league's vaccination rate could be model for country

As of this week, 93.5% of NFL players and more than 99% of other football-related staff are at least partially vaccinatedGETTY IMAGES

NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said that the league's high COVID-19 vaccination rate "provides a 'unique opportunity' to model a way out of the ongoing pandemic for the entire country," according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. Sills said, "We know we are going to have positive cases this season. I don't think 'COVID zero' is an attainable goal, and we all need to understand that. What we think we can do is keep our team environments as safe as possible, avoid widespread outbreaks and, with vaccinations in place, convert this into a seasonal illness as opposed to a devastating pandemic." Seifert noted as of this week, 93.5% of NFL players and more than 99% of other football-related staff are "at least partially vaccinated." NFLPA President JC Tretter said that 14 players or coaches from the Titans "tested positive this summer." But the NFL has "not classified any series of team test results as an outbreak because it did not see evidence of uncontrolled spread within team facilities." Sills: "We already have enough data to say that vaccinated people are not transmitting in a way that leads to widespread outbreaks because we're not seeing the kind of outbreaks we saw last year." Sills said that the NFL also has "not documented evidence of a single case of spread outdoors or during games." Seifert noted since the start of training camp, the NFL's COVID-19 incidence rate has been "about 1%" of the 6,000-person testing pool (ESPN.com, 9/8).

VOUCHING FOR VACCINES: Sills said that the protocols are "'continually' reevaluated and adjusted when necessary." He added, “I think that we’ve consistently recognized that testing is one component of our strategy but certainly not the only. And what we’ve emphasized is that really what’s keeping us safe this year is the vaccines. We know that reduces the risk of infection. It certainly reduces the risk of severe infection or outcomes and also appears to have positive benefit on the transmission” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/9).

MAKING THINGS HARDER: In S.F., Ann Killion notes the NFL has "drawn a bright line between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated." Even with "incentives" for players to get vaccinated, there are "still some holdouts." The Bills "certainly can survive without anti-vaxxer Cole Beasley and his average of five catches a game." More problematic are the teams with "quarterbacks who haven’t gotten vaccinated." As the Broncos found out last year, when the team "faced a game without any available" QBs, it is "hard to win a game without one." In addition, it is "surely equally hard for an unvaccinated starting quarterback to be a true, unselfish leader of a team when almost all of his teammates are doing the right thing to help protect not only their own health but the health of each other" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/9).

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