Sport: Fact check: 6 of Aaron Rodgers' false and misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccine

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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 to not take one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Rodgers described himself as not "some sort of anti-vax, flat-earther" but rather "a critical thinker." He referenced the "woke mob" and a "witch hunt" against those who are unvaccinated. And he offered his opinion on a variety of issues related to the pandemic and personal health.

Aaron Rodgers before a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28. © Rob Schumacher, Arizona Republic Aaron Rodgers before a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28.

His comments were riddled with debunked claims.

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Here are six of the most blatantly false or misleading statements Rodgers made during Friday's appearance.

COVID-19 rates among unvaccinated

Rodgers' claim: "This idea that it's a pandemic of the unvaccinated, it's a just a total lie."

Fact check: Unvaccinated individuals are, in fact, bearing the brunt of the pandemic's impact.

Perhaps the most notable evidence of this came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this fall. The CDC studied more than 600,000 cases of COVID-19 from 13 states and found that unvaccinated people were 4.5 times more likely to get infected, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die than their vaccinated counterparts.

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Vaccines as a silver bullet

Rodgers' question: "If the vaccine is so great, then how come people are still getting COVID and spreading COVID and, unfortunately, dying of COVID?"

Fact check: Vaccines are public health tools that significantly reduce the risk of contracting or becoming ill from COVID-19, as illustrated in the aforementioned statistics. No vaccine is 100% effective, however, and "breakthrough infections" are possible.

The three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have been proven to be at least 70% effective in preventing illness, and upwards of 90% effective in preventing severe cases. Studies also suggest that booster shots, which are available for certain segments of the population, increase those efficacy rates.

Ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment

Rodgers' claim: "Why do people hate ivermectin? Not just because (President Donald) Trump championed it, but because it's a cheap generic, and you can't make any money off of it."

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Fact check: Rodgers says he has been taking ivermectin, among other treatments. Experts have discouraged doing so.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, ivermectin is used to treat maladies like parasites and scabies. It "has not been approved as a treatment for any sort of viral infection," and it has not been proven to treat COVID-19.

"The reason for the interest in ivermectin is that studies in the lab have shown it can block viruses from multiplying in experimental settings – i.e. in a petri dish – and so people hoped this would mean it could help treat COVID-19 in people too," Denise McCulloch, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Washington's School of Medicine, told USA TODAY 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 it is used in people with COVID-19."

The FDA says there are multiple clinical trials underway or in development to further evaluate the potential use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

Opinion: Aaron Rodgers isn't a victim of 'woke mob.' He's dangerously, and willfully, misinformed.

  Opinion: Aaron Rodgers isn't a victim of 'woke mob.' He's dangerously, and willfully, misinformed. Packers' Aaron Rodgers hit almost every anti-vax talking point there is Friday in trying to justify why he isn’t vaccinated and why he lied about it. Rodgers went to the safe space that is the Pat McAfee Show, and in a rambling 45-minute diatribe  claimed to have an allergy to one of the ingredients in the mRNA vaccines. Said he was worried about Johnson & Johnson because of the possibility of blood clots – which have only occurred in women, and a miniscule amount, at that. Expressed fears about the impact on his ability to have children, despite actual science showing it’s being unvaccinated that poses the risk.

Vaccination vs. natural immunity

Rodgers' claim: "If you've gotten COVID, and recovered from it, that's the best boost to immunity that we can have."

Fact check: It's unclear what Rodgers meant by "the best boost to immunity." But his claim is, at best, partly false.

Experts believe that vaccination and infection both generate a strong immune response, but it is unclear which provides protection for a longer period of time. The vaccines, experts say, do provide more consistent protection. And, most importantly, they offer the benefits of immunity without the risk of actually contracting the disease.

"To get immunity from a natural infection, you first have to get the infection — and risk a serious illness or having long-term health consequences," Ellen Foxman, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, told USA TODAY in an email in June.

"You also risk spreading the virus to friends and loved ones who might get a serious illness, even if you don’t. The main reason to get a vaccine is to get immunity without taking these health risks."

A growing body of research suggests previous coronavirus infection plus vaccination provides the strongest protection against COVID-19.

COVID-19 and fertility

Rodgers' claim: "To my knowledge, there's been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccine. So that was definitely something I was worried about."

Fact-checking Aaron Rodgers' bizarre COVID beliefs and 'woke mob' claim made on Pat McAfee Show

  Fact-checking Aaron Rodgers' bizarre COVID beliefs and 'woke mob' claim made on Pat McAfee Show Rodgers explains debunked coronavirus conspiracies he believes that led him to decide against getting vaccinated.Speaking on "The Pat McAfee Show," Rodgers said that he is "in the crosshairs of the woke mob" and that "before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket," he wanted to clear up some of the "blatant lies out there." He said that he did not lie during his Aug. 27 press conference, when he said he was "immunized," but he said there was a "witch hunt" that was going on to shame people who had not been vaccinated.

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to support Rodgers' concerns. According to the CDC, "there is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men."

"Long-term studies" on the issue haven't been possible, of course, given the COVID-19 vaccines' brief existence. However, researchers at the University of Miami did conduct a study late last year into the possible impact of the vaccine on male sperm counts and found no significant changes.

If anything, experts believe that contracting COVID-19 is what could ultimately have an impact on fertility, because the disease can often result in a prolonged fever.

"Getting COVID can be potentially detrimental to their fertility," said Sigal Klipstein, chair of the ethics committee at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. "And getting the vaccine is safe and could even protect fertility by protecting you against the severe effects of COVID disease."

We know a lot about the vaccine

Rodgers' claim: "This vaccine is revolutionary, the things that they're doing. However, we don't know a lot about it."

Fact check: Rodgers is correct that the vaccine is revolutionary, but incorrect that "we don't know a lot about it."

The roots of the COVID-19 vaccines can be traced back nearly two decades, to the emergence of SARS – another coronavirus. And the mRNA technology that is used in both 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 made available to the public only after extensive trials and testing. The CDC says they have undergone and will continue to undergo what it called "the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history."

In case you missed it, Aaron Rodgers had an interesting Friday

  In case you missed it, Aaron Rodgers had an interesting Friday Plenty of you only spend time visiting outlets like this when not on your own personal time. Which is fine with me, as long as you don’t do it so much that you end up having 168 hours per week of personal time. So now that you’re back at work, you may be curious about [more]So now that you’re back at work, you may be curious about everything that happened on Friday afternoon, starting with the memorable Aaron Rodgers stream-of-consciousness in which he took an anti-vaccine position, insisted he’s not anti-vaxx, claimed he never agreed to rules that his union accepted on his behalf, blamed the media, the “woke mob,”and “cancel culture” for his decision to not be as candid as he should have been about his unvacc

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: 6 of Aaron Rodgers' false and misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccine

NFL chief medical officer pushes back on Aaron Rodgers' claim that some COVID-19 protocols are 'not based in science' .
Allen Sills said the NFL's COVID-19 protocols are "always based on science" despite Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' claim to the contrary.“We've been very consistent,” Sills told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. “First of all, these are things that we decided collectively with the players association (NFLPA). They're always based on science. The science that at best we understand for public health, but also our own data. We are constantly looking at our own data in every way possible, to see where we might still be vulnerable and what parts of our protocols we think are particularly effective.

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