Of course, Rodgers, a three-time MVP, is not a scientist and has no authority on the complex sciences of immunology or virology. But his all-over-the-map reasoning for refusing to get a required vaccine touches on many of the causes of hesitancy expressed by unvaccinated Americans.
Rodgers, by relying on the advice of a podcaster rather than doctors, will get information in line with what he’s looking for rather than what’s factual, said Tara C. Smith, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Kent State University College of Public Health, who has studied the public perception of the vaccines.
“When people have these ideas in mind, you can go out and find things to support that,” Smith said. “That’s easy enough to do, but that’s not actually doing research. People like Rodgers and others who are publicly doubting vaccines take the opposite tack and just find research that already confirms their preexisting biases. And that’s not how science works.”
Here are five of the misleading statements Rodgers made and what experts say:
Rodgers: “I didn’t lie in the initial press conference … and at the time my plan was to say I’ve been immunized. It wasn’t some sort of ruse or lie … I found an immunization protocol that could best protect me and my teammates. And it was a long-term protocol that involved multiple months.”
What experts say: Rodgers continued to list a series of drugs and vitamins he has begun using as homeopathic remedies for infection, but treatments, even unproven ones, are not the same as protection, according to immunologists.
Rodgers said Rogan and a team of medical experts he said he spoke to but did not name recommended ivermectin, monoclonal antibodies, zinc and other remedies. But ivermectin — an anti-parasitic medication — has not been studied as a treatment for covid-19, despite being promoted by prominent conservative media figures and politicians, as well as some physicians. Monoclonal antibodies — an effective, widely available covid-19 treatment — also does not prevent the infection and the protection it provides lasts weeks, less time than a vaccine that offers protection from severe illness.
“Sometimes treatments can reduce the severity of illness or reduce the length of time you are sick, but vaccination prevents you from becoming sick in the first place,” Smith said.
Still, Rodgers touted “natural immunity” he achieved via the treatment as a superior alternative to getting vaccinated.
Ariangela Kozik, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan, said the idea of “natural immunity” via therapies is a fallacy. Vaccines tell a person’s immune system what the virus looks like so the body can build its own protection.
“Your immune system is the one doing the work,” Kozik said. “They say ‘I trust my body.' Great, I trust mine too. It just needed to know how to recognize what it’s supposed to be fighting.”
Rodgers: “This idea that it’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated, it’s just a total lie … If the vaccine is so great, then how come people are still getting covid and spreading covid and, unfortunately dying of covid?”
What experts say: This summer, officials began calling the virus’s surge a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” referencing the reality that unvaccinated people overwhelmingly account for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
CDC data in August revealed unvaccinated American adults’ chance of death from covid-19 was more than 11 times greater than fully vaccinated ones, while the risk of testing positive was six times higher among the unvaccinated.
Still, some like Rodgers have pointed to breakthrough infections as a reason to doubt the vaccines.
“Breakthrough infections are to be expected, even when you have highly effective vaccines,” Roy M. Gulick, chief of infectious disease at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, previously told The Post.
Rodgers continued that he believes his choice to get vaccinated is his own and would not impact others.
That “binary framing” that vaccination is an individual choice and if you get vaccinated it offers 100% protection is not true, Kozik said.
“The way our society works is we’re in varying degrees of relationships with other people,” she said. “Our actions, directly and indirectly, impact the actions of everyone around us.”
Rodgers: “Why do people hate ivermectin? Not just because Trump championed it, but because it’s a cheap generic, and you can’t make any money off of it.”
What experts say: The National Institutes of Health have funded studies of ivermectin, a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms, and other common drugs not approved to treat covid-19. But as of now, the evidence of efficacy against the coronavirus is lacking.
Last spring, a randomized controlled trial published in the journal JAMA found the drug does not speed recovery in people with mild cases of the disease caused by the virus.
Rodgers: “I have an allergy to an ingredient that’s in the mRNA vaccine. On the CDC’s own website, it says ‘should you have an allergy to any of the mRNA vaccines’ so those two were out, so the only option was Johnson and Johnson … In mid-April, the J & J shot got pulled for clotting issues. So the J & J shot was not even an option at that point.”
What experts say: Overall, adverse reactions to coronavirus vaccinations remain rare, including allergies and blood clotting.
Rodgers did not identify what he is allergic to but researchers have identified uncommon reactions to an ingredient in the two-dose shots, polyethylene glycol, in which serious symptoms are still rare. Of nearly 2 million people vaccinated as of the start of 2021, only 21 had severe allergic reactions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at the time.
“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,” David Lang, allergist and chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, wrote in a post.
It would be unusual if Rodgers was also at risk of a blood clot. Although immunization with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused in some states after six women developed blood clots, vaccinations resumed once investigators determined the risk was rare for women of childbearing age.
Rodgers: “To my knowledge, there’s been no zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccines. So that was something I was definitely worried about.”
What experts say: Rodgers cited his hopes of becoming a father as one of the reasons he declined the shot. But there’s a greater risk of infertility caused by the virus he has.
The same misconception about infertility from getting vaccinated was raised by singer Nicki Minaj and has spread online, despite dismissals from experts including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
According to the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology and the Society for the Study of Male Reproduction, fevers are a possible side effect of the vaccine and may temporarily suppress sperm production.