Many top NBA players apprehensive about promoting COVID-19 vaccines: report

Many top NBA players apprehensive about promoting COVID-19 vaccines: report
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Several top basketball players have reportedly been hesitant about participating in the NBA’s campaigns to promote coronavirus vaccines. 

ESPN reported Wednesday that sources said the NBA has reached out to agents for several of the league’s top players about participating in advertising campaigns, but many have expressed apprehension. 

Agents and players told ESPN that the fears largely align with those that exist among the Black community, which has been the victim of historical mistreatment and still-existent racism within medicine.

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Some players are reportedly unsure if they are comfortable getting the vaccine themselves and, therefore, are hesitant to promote it for others. 

ESPN also reported that some players do not want to participate in the league’s plans amid pushback to the NBA All-Star Game scheduled for early March, which several players argue should not be happening due to safety concerns amid the pandemic. 

The NBA has done vaccine PSAs with Hall of Fame star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

According to ESPN, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last month, "In the African American community, there's been enormously disparate impact from COVID ... but now, somewhat perversely, there's been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] in the African American community for understandable historical reasons.” 

He went on to say, "If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community, because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated."

When contacted by The Hill, the NBA pointed to statements later provided to ESPN from Dr. Leroy Sims, the league's senior vice president of medical affairs.

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Sims said that as of Wednesday he had completed 20 presentations to teams to promote the benefits of the coronavirus vaccine, with a total of 30 expected by Monday.

"I've tried to tackle misinformation— that the development process was rushed, that the vaccine can alter genetics, that the trials lacked diversity," Sims said. "I get the question of: 'If I get this shot, is it going to impact my performance?' I walked them through what the results were, about the different types of vaccine, and I conclude with the benefits of the vaccination."

He went on to say, "Right now, they can't get shots, but they can still show support for parents or grandparents getting their vaccines now; and when the time comes, they can show their support by speaking and telling people they've gotten it— or showing pictures of them getting it."

"There will be a tremendous benefit having some of our players coming out publicly supporting this because their actions, their words, carry weight in the community," Sims added.

Sources told ESPN that Silver in a call with league general managers on Tuesday said that while the league would not "jump the line" of the general public to get vaccines, he hoped players could start receiving inoculations by late March or early April. 

However, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciAverage daily COVID-19 infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says Ron Johnson praises conservative author bashed by Fauci The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate readies weeklong debate on infrastructure MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in an appearance on CNN Tuesday that vaccines may be widely available to the general public later than initially predicted. 

“If you start talking about when vaccines would be more widely available to the general population, I was hoping that that would be by the end of April, namely, have gone through all the priorities and now say, OK anyone can get it,” Fauci said. “That was predicated on J&J, the Johnson product, having considerably more doses than now we know they’re going to have.” 

“So, that timeline will probably be prolonged, maybe into mid-to-late May and early June, that’s fine,” Fauci said.

President BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden vaccine rule sets stage for onslaught of lawsuits MORE last week announced that the U.S. had secured an additional 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, adding that the country should have enough doses from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech to inoculate every American by the end of July.

--Updated on Feb. 18 at 10:07 a.m.