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The Minnesota Vikings hosted renowned epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm on Monday in an attempt to persuade those who had not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine to do so, and he shared with "The Morning Joe" some of his talking points.
The Vikings reportedly started August with the league's lowest vaccination rate among players, including a handful of its most recognizable stars and community role models.
Doctor addresses COVID disinformation with Vikings
Osterholm was a guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday and spoke about the rising COVID-19 cases and the safety of the coronavirus vaccine. When asked about speaking with the Vikings, he said it was an exciting opportunity and he praised the organization's efforts to have the entire team vaccinated.
He then summarized his talking points, which apply to the community at large (H/T Pro Football Talk):
“What I shared with them was really just addressing this disinformation that’s out there. A rumor that 6,700 people had died from taking the vaccine. Absolutely not true. A rumor that the vaccine makes you sterile. Absolutely not true. And so it’s amazing once a disinformation piece of information becomes talked about, it becomes fact.
“And so what I did was just systematically went through and talked about what are the risks of getting the vaccine . . . what are the risks of not getting the vaccine. And the other thing, I appealed to their team as a team. We have to each take care of each other. Getting vaccinated today is not just about protecting yourself. If you’re an adult, it’s about protecting your kids from getting the virus.
“If you’re a leader on a football team, it’s about the community looking to you. Young men and women in our community saying in fact, ‘If they’re not going to get it, why should I get it? But if they do get it, maybe I should get it.’ And so I think it was really an ideal opportunity to kind of share about vaccine and what it means to the community.”
Osterholm said he was talking to a historian who told him the COVID-19 pandemic has helped him understand what it must have been like for families in the Civil War who had some sons fight for the North and others for the South. In 46 years, he said he hadn't experienced vile communication or routine death threats until the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vikings reportedly one of least vaccinated teams
Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is unvaccinated, was quarantined earlier this month when he was deemed a close contact of Kellen Mond, who is also not vaccinated and tested positive for COVID-19. Other players, including receiver Adam Thielen, have publicly announced they are unvaccinated.
Head coach Mike Zimmer voiced frustration at his quarterbacks and others in the U.S. who won't get vaccinated. Not only for the sake of everyone's health, but also that vaccinated players have fewer restrictions in the NFL's COVID-19 guidelines for the season.
Zimmer said on Monday that Osterholm's discussion with players went well.
"He's one of the top specialists in the world, and I thought he was very good with his points, answered a lot of questions," Zimmer said, via the Minnesota Star Tribune. "Whether or not that changes anything, I don't know. We were very thankful he was able to come over here and talk to the team in person."
"He understands the importance of when people look up to our football players," Zimmer added, "especially now with all the — and I don't want to get into it all that much — but with this delta variant and how it's affecting younger people all over the world, I think that the more we can show it's safe and young kids, not younger than 11, but these kids can get vaccinated, we're all going to stay healthier."
The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, the first to receive approval from the administration. The three different vaccines were given out under an emergency use authorization. Zimmer said he didn't know if that would help lead to more vaccinations among players.
The daily number of people getting their first dose of the vaccine rose by more than 70% since mid-July, White House officials said Tuesday. Of Americans aged 12 and older, 71% have received one dose of the vaccine and 60% are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, per The New York Times.