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Can Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers be ‘immunized’ and unvaccinated?
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COVID-19 | Q&A

Can Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers be ‘immunized’ and unvaccinated?

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Since Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 3, he has had to sit out of practices and games for 10 days because he’s unvaccinated according to National Football League rules. He might return to practice Saturday and play against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.

Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur defended Jordan Love for his play against the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Aug. 26, while Rodgers spoke to reporters, he was asked directly whether he was vaccinated. “Yeah, I’ve been immunized,” he said.

Nothing he has said supports that claim. This month, he explained that he had received a homeopathic treatment, which he did not specify, designed to boost his antibody levels. He said he is allergic to an ingredient in the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 made by Moderna and Pfizer. He said he has been treated with monoclonal antibodies, the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, zinc, vitamins C and D and HCQ, or hydroxychloroquine, a drug with benefits that the CDC determined “do not outweigh their risks” as a treatment for COVID-19.

Here are answers to some related questions:

Do the terms “vaccinated” and “immunized” mean the same thing?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines immunization this way: “A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.”

The World Health Organization says immunization “is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infection, typically by the administration of a vaccine.”

Can people be “immunized” against viruses, such as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from methods such as homeopathic remedies?

Taking zinc or vitamin C, getting plenty or sleep and reducing stress “can make your immune system maybe a little bit more efficient in responding to a threat, but it doesn’t immunize you,” said Dr. Jeff Pofhof, chief quality officer at UW Health. “It doesn’t prevent you from getting COVID-19.”

What about if you’ve already had the disease?

“Usually for at least a short period of time, at a minimum, after exposure to say, COVID-19, or other viruses, you do have some immunity,” Pothof said.

The CDC says “vaccinating previously infected individuals significantly enhances their immune response and effectively reduces the risk of subsequent infection.”

What kinds of allergies can people have to COVID-19 vaccines, and is that a reason to avoid them?

People, rarely, can react to polyethylene glycol, or PEG, a stabilizer found in laxatives that is in the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer, the CDC says. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a different kind of shot, contains polysorbate, which can also rarely trigger reactions.

Pothof said people should avoid the vaccines only if they’ve previously had a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, to the ingredients. It’s highly unlikely anyone would react that way to both ingredients, so people should be able take either the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or the J&J shot, he said.

“Even though there is a risk of anaphylaxis, it’s still very small — and the potential benefit from the covid-19 vaccination clearly exceeds the potential for harm,” Dr. David Lang, of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, wrote in a recent post.

Are monoclonal antibodies helpful against COVID-19?

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized monoclonal antibodies, or laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off infection, against COVID-19. They’re meant to be used in high-risk people after becoming ill or being exposed to infection, not to prevent exposure.

The treatment “is not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19,” the FDA says.

Isn’t deciding whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19 a personal choice?

“People who are unvaccinated are much more likely to get the disease,” Pothof said. “They’re much more likely, then, to spread the disease to other people, and now that personal choice isn’t just about you. It’s about all the other people that are in your life and who you come in contact with in public. You’re kind of making a choice for them too. You’re putting them at increased risk.”

Pothof compared the situation to drunken driving.

“It is a personal choice if you choose to drive drunk,” he said. “But we typically don’t tolerate that, because that personal choice to drive drunk doesn’t just put you in danger. It puts those kids in that other car in danger too.”

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