The Washington Wizards missed nearly two weeks of games while nine players on the team was placed under coronavirus protocols and seven players tested positive for the virus. The league is seeing games postponed nearly every day. This is no surprise since the 2020-21 NBA season involves players traveling from city to city across the United States, and new variants are more transmissible than ever before.
And last week according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted that the league has discussed getting players vaccinated, perhaps as part of a public service campaign to encourage the public to get it ... when it’s their turn. As dark as this winter is, most vaccines appear to be very effective. That said NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts aid that players and that she herself have reservations about getting the vaccine early.
There is a problem with the NBA’s players getting priority for the vaccine besides supply (another article in and of itself), so healthcare workers and older immunocompromised people are generally the first people to get it under normal circumstances. The thing is that players are rich, young and healthy. So even though a significant number of Wizards players (and many others) got the coronavirus recently, they are still at low risk of severe complications or death.
But at the same time, the NBA has been adamant about continuing a 72-game season. Given how much and how far players are traveling for games, it also makes sense to get players and coaches vaccinated sooner than the general public. I even noted that as such last November when Pfizer announced that its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine was over 90 percent effective.
If players get vaccinated earlier, it could help the league’s players and coaches reach “herd immunity” so future cases will not decimate rosters like the Wizards earlier this month. And given that many players had the virus already, it’s not like the league has to vaccinate most players even when it’s available for them. It should start with players and coaches who never tested positive and are willing to get vaccinated. And according to the CDC. people who had COVID-19 already should still get vaccinated even though they would have some degree of immunity already.
It’s a controversial thing to have young athletes get vaccinated before the general public. But sports is also going on during this winter when they are not following rules like social distancing and wearing masks while on the court, field or ice. And sports has also been an outlet for the public during times like these. Given what’s happening this season in the NBA with continuous outbreaks, vaccines seem like the only way to keep the league going without a potential midseason suspension.