At this writing, just over 25% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Over half of the adult population has received at least one dose of the various vaccines that are available to help halt the spread of the disease. According to Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, those percentages carry through to his team’s roster — which currently has 73 players.
“I’m giving you approximates now,” he told reporters during his Zoom press appearance on Monday. “There’s approximately 18 that have been vaccinated.”
That’s very close to 25% of the total roster.
Aside from reducing the potential for infection, there are additional motivating factors for NFL teams to get their players and support personnel vaccinated. As NFL.com reported last week, the league intends for players to have as little contact as possible with team staffers who remain unvaccinated.
In a Tuesday memo obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the league informed clubs their Tier 1 and 2 employees (excluding players) “should be expected to be vaccinated unless they have a bona fide medical or religious ground for not doing so.” Those who refuse vaccination without either a religious or medical reason will not be eligible for Tier 1 or 2 status “and therefore will not be permitted access to the ‘football only’ restricted area and may not work directly or in close proximity with players,” per the memo.
The league added it anticipates relaxing various aspects of the protocols implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., close contact quarantine, restrictions regarding locker room, meetings and cafeteria use and testing cadence) for vaccinated individuals.
Reid said that the team is making vaccinations available to its staff starting on Tuesday.
“Right now, there’s a handful of them that have already been vaccinated — myself included. I think the more that we can push towards that, I think that’s a positive. I think giving people an opportunity to do it is great as we move forward.”
One of the players who has already been vaccinated is quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who — like Reid — appeared in Monday’s Zoom conference call from the team facility.
“To me it was more of a personal decision — with having a baby girl and knowing I was going to be around people,” he told reporters on Monday. “I wanted to make sure I could do whatever I could to help keep her healthy — but I think it’s a personal decision for everybody. I mean, whatever you believe, I think you can do whatever that is — and we’ll figure out the best way to keep each other healthy by social distancing and doing whatever it is whenever we can in this building.”
But his teammate Tyrann Mathieu — who joined the Zoom call from his home — is among those Chiefs who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m hoping that I could do it soon — but obviously, it’s a choice for everybody,” said the All-Pro safety. “I think everybody has different perspectives on it. I think at the end of the day, it’s all about trying to put yourself in the best position to live a healthy life going forward — and all the people around you. So I’m hoping I can get to that. We’re still kind of going through the process — me and my family — but I’m hoping we can do it.”
It’s likely that the NFL will make it as easy as possible for Mathieu, his family — and the rest of his unvaccinated teammates and their families — to get it done.