NBA commissioner Adam Silver said his league wouldn’t jump the line for coronavirus vaccines. Then, he sounded quite open – inviting, even – to public-health officials moving players to the front of the line.
That sparked righteous backlash.
Now, the league’s messaging is reverting to its original form.
NBA senior vice president of medical affairs Dr. Leroy Sims, via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
We’re not jumping the line. We understand that the vaccine is rolling out in such a way that you’re trying to get to the people who are most at risk or most vulnerable first, that includes front-line workers like myself working in the ER [emergency room], because we’re around so many people who could have the virus. It includes people who are elderly, living in congregate settings, like nursing homes, or people who have chronic medical conditions. Those people who are at risk of severe complications, hospitalizations or deaths if they were to get COVID, we’re focused on them. After that, we’ll open it up. The vaccine will start to be distributed to others in the community.
We recognize that our basketball players are young and healthy, so they will get vaccinated or have the opportunity to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. So we won’t be jumping the line there. As it relates to some of our coaches and older individuals, some of them are in categories that allow them to get vaccinated. But that will bear out the way that the local hospitals, departments of public health, are rolling out the vaccine and setting up the prioritization.
In addition to emphasizing getting shots in arms as rapidly as possible, vaccines should be prioritized for people at the highest risk of severe coronavirus outcomes or people – like medical professionals and nursing-home workers – who must have close contact with high-risk people.
Vaccinating NBA players accomplishes neither.
NBA players are young, generally healthy and disproportionately naturally immune. Time spent determining which celebrities should receive special treatment is time not spent addressing a bungled vaccine rollout.
Even a purported benefit to vaccinating NBA players sooner – addressing Black people’s understandable skepticism – doesn’t hold water. There isn’t strong evidence reluctant people will trust the vaccine more just because NBA players got it. Plus, giving this stage to NBA players would amplify the players who mistrust vaccines themselves – further eroding the intended message.
NBA players should get vaccinated when it’s appropriate based on their age, health and availability – not their celebrity status. Any public-health officials considering otherwise ought to listen to Sims.