Two days after testing positive for COVID-19, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers joined the “Pat McAfee Show” on Friday to explain his decision not to take one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Rodgers described himself as not “some kind of anti-vax, flat earth” but rather “a critical thinker”. He referred to the “crowd awakened” and a “witch hunt” against those who are not vaccinated. And he offered his opinion on various issues related to the pandemic and personal health.
His comments were riddled with debunked claims.
Here are six of the most blatantly false or misleading statements Rodgers made during Friday’s appearance.
COVID-19 rate among the unvaccinated
Rodgers’ claim: “This idea that this is an unvaccinated pandemic is just a complete lie.”
Checking the facts: Unvaccinated individuals are, in fact, the most affected by the impact of the pandemic.
Perhaps the most notable proof of this has come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this fall. The CDC has studied more than 600,000 cases of COVID-19 in 13 states and found that unvaccinated people were 4.5 times more likely to be infected, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die than their vaccinated counterparts.
Vaccines as a miracle solution
Question from Rodger: “If the vaccine is so good then how come people still catch COVID and spread COVID and unfortunately die from COVID? “
Checking the facts: Vaccines are public health tools that significantly reduce the risk of contracting or becoming ill from COVID-19, as illustrated by the aforementioned statistics. However, no vaccine is 100% effective and “breakthrough infections” are possible.
The three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States have been shown to be at least 70% effective in preventing disease, and up to 90% effectiveness in preventing severe cases. Studies also suggest that booster injections, which are available to certain segments of the population, increase these rates of effectiveness.
Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment
Rodgers’ claim: “Why do people hate ivermectin? Not just because (President Donald) Trump defended it, but because it’s a cheap generic and you can’t make money from it.”
Checking the facts: Rodgers says he took ivermectin, among other treatments. Experts have discouraged doing so.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, ivermectin is used to treat diseases such as parasites and scabies. It “has not been approved as a treatment for any type of viral infection” and it has not been proven to treat COVID-19.
“The reason for the interest in ivermectin is that laboratory studies have shown that it can prevent viruses from multiplying in experimental environments – that is, in a Petri dish – and therefore people were hoping it would mean it could help treat COVID-19 in people too, “Denise McCulloch, infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine, USA TODAY said in an email in August.
“Unfortunately, the few high-quality studies that have been done to date do not demonstrate a beneficial effect of ivermectin when used in people with COVID-19.”
The FDA says there are several clinical trials underway or in development to further assess the potential use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
Vaccination vs natural immunity
Rodgers’ claim: “If you’ve contracted COVID and recovered from it, this is the best immunity boost we can have. “
Checking the facts: It’s unclear what Rodgers meant by “the best immunity boost.” But his claim is, at best, partly wrong.
Experts believe that vaccination and infection both generate a strong immune response, but it is not clear who provides protection for a longer period. Vaccines, experts say, offer more consistent protection. And, more importantly, they offer the benefits of immunity without the risk of actually contracting the disease.
“To gain immunity against a natural infection, you must first contract the infection – and risk serious illness or long-term health consequences,” Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, USA TODAY said in an email in June.
“You are also at risk of passing the virus on to friends and relatives who could contract serious illness, even if they don’t. The main reason for getting vaccinated is to get immunity without taking these risks to health.”
A growing body of research suggests that a previous coronavirus infection plus vaccination offer the strongest protection against COVID-19.
COVID-19 and fertility
Rodgers’ claim: “To my knowledge, there haven’t been any long-term studies of infertility or fertility issues around the vaccine. So that was definitely something that worried me.”
Made: There is no scientific evidence to support Rodgers’ concerns. According to the CDC, “There is currently no evidence that vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.”
“Long-term studies” on the matter have of course not been possible, given the brief existence of COVID-19 vaccines. However, researchers at the University of Miami conducted a study at the end of last year on the possible impact of the vaccine on the male sperm count and found no significant changes.
On the contrary, experts believe that contracting COVID-19 is what could ultimately impact fertility, as the disease can often lead to a prolonged fever.
“Obtaining COVID can potentially be detrimental to their fertility,” said Sigal Klipstein, chair of the ethics committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. “And getting the vaccine is safe and could even protect fertility by protecting you from the serious effects of the COVID disease. “
We know a lot about the vaccine
Rodgers’ claim: “This vaccine is revolutionary, the things they do. However, we don’t know much about it.”
Checking the facts: Rodgers is right that the vaccine is revolutionary, but he is wrong to say that “we don’t know much about it”.
The roots of COVID-19 vaccines goes back almost two decades, with the emergence of SARS – another coronavirus. And the mRNA technology that is used in the Pfizer-BioN and Moderna vaccines had been in development long before the emergence of COVID-19.
As for the COVID-19 vaccines themselves, they were only made available to the public after extensive testing and testing. CDC says they have undergone and will continue to suffer what he called “the most intensive security oversight in US history.”