I’m a doctor passionate about public health and public policy born and raised in Wisconsin and educated at the Medical College of Wisconsin (the same institute that bestowed Mr. Rodgers an honorary degree in 2018). I’m also a Packers shareholder, as is my father, a practicing physician in the state. I cheered you on for your 2011 Super Bowl win from my college dorm freshman year and even had an Aaron Rodgers sticker on my student laptop. Over the years the Packers have provided me with a sense of community, a family bond, and a tie to my home state as my education has taken me all over the country.
The pandemic hit while I was a medical student. Like everyone, regardless of proximity to the health care system, the last two years took a toll on us. Being in the hospital and COVID rooms during the summer of 2020, through our vaccinations in December of 2020 and public vaccinations in the Spring of 2021 has shaped my career interest. Understandably it’s also left some lasting scars. I’m therefore disappointed to see the recent news regarding Mr. Rodgers and his vaccination status and subsequent COVID diagnosis.
I know what Mr. Rodgers means to the state of Wisconsin. The children of Wisconsin (many of whom are just recently vaccine eligible) idolize him. As we continue to fight vaccine misinformation and urge the remainder of the unvaccinated population to do so to beat this virus I have some serious concerns about what a person with such a large audience invoking further doubt about vaccination could have for our efforts.
Mr. Rodgers, I’m glad you’re feeling well. This isn’t altogether unsurprising given your younger age and elite physical fitness (though cases in young unvaccinated people can and have become severe) and I hope you continue to feel well as you quarantine. The medical and scientific community works on data, lots and lots of data. The process of running clinical trials and publishing data is rigorously vetted and peer-reviewed. We do not have good data that supports the use of ivermectin. In fact, a couple of preprint studies have been removed from the internet due to inaccuracy and flaws in their data.
The data we do have on monoclonal antibodies for prophylaxis against COVID show they are less durable than vaccines. They’re also much more expensive than the now readily available vaccines and prohibitively expensive to many in working-class areas like Green Bay. We are constantly reading the new data as it comes out. If further scientific trials show promise, we are open to changing guidelines. That’s how science advances. We just aren’t there yet. What we do have data on is the hundreds of millions who have received the vaccines. Fully vaccinated individuals are 10x less likely to experience hospitalization and death from COVID-19 infection. The breakthrough cases you’ve mentioned are expected as each person’s immune system is different but the point still stands, they work. They work incredibly well when we look at, you guessed it, the overall data. The vaccines and the global effort to develop them at the speed they have are huge feats for the scientific community. This is why the extremely critically-thinking scientific community has overwhelmingly gotten vaccinated and recommended vaccination.
Furthermore, I fear you are missing — and propagating — a very important point. We don’t just get vaccinated for ourselves, but for the greater good. As I’ve said, I’m glad you’re feeling well. As an unvaccinated young, healthy person you pose a greater risk of spreading the virus to the portion of the very young, very old, and immunocompromised population who do not share in your level of fitness than if you were fully vaccinated, especially with the travel required of you and going maskless. Some of these people make up your fan base. As someone who has been part of a team for his whole life, I wish you would see these individuals as part of your larger “team.” We have to all be in this together to achieve our goals of herd immunity just as you have had to work together with your teammates to win games and titles.
I wish Mr. Rodgers a speedy recovery and hope he uses this time to reevaluate some of his recent statements and their possible repercussions. I’ll be watching and cheering on Jordan Love and the rest of the team.
Allison Neitzel is a physician.
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