Teams across the professional sports sphere are attempting to hit a very important number as all leagues attempt to grasp at some semblance of normalcy after a terrible 2020. That number is 85 percent. NFL, MLB, and NBA teams that have 85 percent of their players vaccinated are free from most of the stringent rules and protocols designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in clubhouses and locker rooms alike.
Regardless of anyone's personal feelings on the coronavirus vaccine, the competitive advantage is clear and obvious. If enough people within the organization are vaccinated, the risk of losing players to contract tracing at the last second is eliminated entirely. Players and coaches have far more freedom on the road to live their lives instead of huddling inside a hotel room to avoid the risk of hitting the COVID list because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many experts suggest having all players available as much as possible is analytically proven to improve winning percentages, so one would think it's not a difficult decision for athletes whose paychecks are pretty reliant on said winning percentage.
Of course, it has quickly come to light that it's not as clear-cut as described above. Many athletes are hesitant to get vaccinated for one reason or another. The Athletic's Matt Gelb dove into why the Philadelphia Phillies have failed to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold yesterday, and at least part of the reasoning is that some believe there is a connection between getting vaccinated and getting injured. Via The Athletic:
Many Phillies players have bristled at MLB’s protocols, but they are the same set of rules for every team. Team officials will not divulge how many players aren’t vaccinated. It is a meaningful number, to the point that months ago, the Phillies were certain they would never reach the 85 percent threshold. The clubhouse’s contentious relationship with the vaccine is driven by a handful of influential players who have voiced opposition to it. Some of them have already contracted COVID-19 and consider the antibodies as enough protection, although the CDC recommends people who’ve had the virus still be vaccinated. Other Phillies players have questioned whether injuries they’ve suffered were a result of vaccine side effects.
When Kintzler experienced neck pain, he attributed it to a Johnson & Johnson vaccine he received in the first week of the season. His body, he said, shut down and that forced him to compensate during an outing. Didi Gregorius has told teammates he thought the vaccine led to his pseudogout diagnosis. When asked last month if he had a theory about what caused his elbow issues, Gregorius said: “I have no clue. So, I’m not sure. Let’s go with that. Because if I start saying things, it’s going to turn into a whole thing.” Archie Bradley alluded to the vaccine when he injured his oblique in April.
“I think everyone should recover for a week from that thing,” Kintzler said of the vaccine last month. “Archie strained his oblique after it. (Matt) Joyce had back problems. There has to be some science behind it.”
Here are common side effects, per the CDC: Tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. The WHO has an extensive article on its website detailing possible short- and long-term side effects from the vaccine shot. There is no link that suggests muscle strains and other significant injuries often occurring in baseball have any relation to the vaccine. None of that is opinion, it is medical fact based on the analysis of millions of people who have received the vaccine. In the above segment, only Brandon Kintzler's neck pain could theoretically be attributed to the vaccine shot.
There is some science behind "it" as Kintzler said. The science says the vaccines can cause discomfort in all sorts of ways, but not lead directly to a strained oblique, one of the most common injuries in baseball.
In fairness, it is easy to see where these guys are coming from. Many of us who have gotten vaccinated know the feeling of exhaustion that came along with one or even both shots. To experience that while trying to play sports at the highest level doesn't seem very enjoyable, and there could be some sort of correlation between that weariness and injuries suffered while trying to battle through it.
But correlation does not imply causation. The Phillies believe it does and that's why they probably won't ever reach that 85 percent threshold, which is extremely dangerous for anybody around the players and staff who may not be able to get the vaccine due to other medical issues. The positives outweigh the negatives no matter what angle you look at this from. Just get your shots.