Sports teams have faced intense blowback since the spring over the perception that they have received special treatment in a pandemic. Now some public health experts are weighing a counterintuitive idea for how they could help end it.
They are suggesting that athletes get earlier access to the coronavirus vaccines.
The process of injecting 330 million Americans with a vaccine for a disease that wasn’t identified one year ago began as a marvel of science and medicine. Soon it will be a daunting logistical challenge. And then it will be a vexing behavioral problem. There are too many people who want the vaccine right now and too many people who don’t want the vaccine at all.
That’s where the athletes would come in. Researchers say that prominent people getting the vaccine and urging others to get the vaccine could help overcome widespread skepticism—especially in the Black community. Polls have shown that vaccine mistrust is greatest among Black adults.
“I could envisage celebrity sports figures playing a very constructive role with vaccine hesitancy,” said Harvey Fineberg, a former dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health and former president of the Institute of Medicine. “I could imagine a campaign that enlisted professional sports. ‘Let’s get everyone back in the game’ could be one tagline. And then ‘When it’s your turn, take a shot.’ That could coincidentally get vaccines to the athletes sooner.”