The NFL’s high COVID-19 vaccination rate offers a “unique opportunity” to find a way out of the ongoing pandemic for the whole country, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, in an interview with ESPN.
“We know we’re going to have positive cases this season,” Sills said a day before the league is due to open its 2021 regular season. “I don’t think ‘COVID zero’ is an achievable goal, and we all have to What we think we can do is keep our team environments as safe as possible, avoid widespread epidemics and, with vaccinations in place, convert that into a seasonal illness as opposed to a devastating pandemic. “
The NFL managed to play all of its 2020 games, for the most part on schedule, and Sills is optimistic about his similar journey in 2021. Positive tests will again disrupt the availability of individual players and staff, but the The league expects most of the related illnesses to be mild and have already seen evidence that large-scale epidemics among teams will be less likely than they were in 2020, Sills said.
As of this week, 93.5% of NFL players and more than 99% of other football-related staff are at least partially vaccinated. Unvaccinated players are tested daily and must follow a series of additional protocols, while fully vaccinated players are tested once a week. The NFL Players Association has demanded daily testing for all players, saying it would reduce the risk of vaccinated players spreading the virus to each other, but Sills said such cases were “incredibly rare.”
According to NFLPA President JC Tretter, 14 Tennessee Titans players or coaches have tested positive this summer. But the league has not classified any round of team test results as an epidemic as they have seen no evidence of uncontrolled spread at team facilities. Generally speaking, and not of any particular team, Sills said: “We already have enough data to say that people who are vaccinated do not transmit in a way that leads to generalized epidemics because we do not see not the kind of outbreaks we saw last year. “
The NFL also hasn’t documented evidence of a single case of spreading outdoors or during games, Sills said, despite the delta variant’s increased transmissibility.
Since the start of training camp, the NFL’s COVID-19 incidence rate – the number of positive tests compared to the full test pool – has been around 1% of the roughly 6,000 people who are part of it. from the NFL test pool. Fully vaccinated players who test positive can return to the field more quickly – only needing to return two negative tests 24 hours apart – but it usually took a week or more during camp. coaching.
According to Sills, some vaccinated players were cleared within days, likely because the league’s MESA tests detected exposure rather than infection. Others came back towards the end of a 10 day period, and a few needed more time.
“Vaccines were designed to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death,” Sills said, “and they do a terrific job both inside and outside the NFL. Ideally, vaccines convert more serious illnesses into milder illnesses, and we certainly see ourselves that too. We see people with no symptoms or very few symptoms and who have short-lived illness. I don’t consider that to be vaccine failure. I consider this to be the success of a vaccine, that we “are able to convert this into mild respiratory disease.”