Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke publicly Friday for the first time since testing positive for COVID-19, which will knock him out of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rodgers joined “The Pat McAfee Show,” saying he’s “doing well” after contracting the virus. The QB, who is unvaccinated, said when he stated in August that he was “immunized,” he wasn’t being deceptive.
“I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now, so before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I’d like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself,” Rodgers said in a lengthy opening statement. “First of all, I didn’t lie in the initial press conference. During that time, it was a witch hunt that was going on across the league where everybody in the media was so concerned about who was vaccinated and what that meant and who was being selfish and who would talk about it and what it meant if they said it’s a personal decision (and) they shouldn’t have to disclose their own medical information and whatnot. And at the time, my plan was to say that I’ve been immunized. It wasn’t some sort of ruse or lie, it was the truth.”
Had there been a follow-up question at the time to Rodgers’ use of the word “immunized” to characterize his status, the reigning NFL MVP said he would have responded thusly:
“Look, I’m not some sort of anti-vax, flat earther. I am somebody who’s a critical thinker. You guys know me. I march to the beat of my own drum. I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something. Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody. And for me, it involved a lot of study in the offseason, much like the study I put into hosting Jeopardy! Or the weekly study I put into playing the game.”
Rodgers said he’s allergic to an ingredient in mRNA vaccines, which precluded him from getting the Moderna and Pfizer shots. He then cited a temporary pause in April on usage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for clotting issues as the reason for his dismissal of that treatment. According to the CDC, blood clot issues with low platelets occur at a rate of about 7 per 1 million vaccinated women between 18 and 49 years old. For women 50 years and older and men of all ages, it is even rarer.
Rodgers also stated his goal to become a father and how, “To my knowledge, there has been zero long-term studies around sterility or fertility issues around the vaccines, so that definitely was something that I was worried about.” The CDC has said there is no evidence that any COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems in women or men.
Rodgers said he spent time in the offseason researching the vaccines and the virus and met with medical professionals before deciding not to get vaccinated.
“I really felt like, at the time, there was a time and place for sharing of information,” Rodgers further explained when it came to his decision to say he was “immunized.” “It was such a witch hunt. They wanted to out and shame and denigrate every single person who didn’t immediately say, ‘Oh I got the Pfizer, I got the Moderna’, whatever. I wanted it to go away. Everyone on the squad knew I was not vaccinated, everyone in the organization knew I wasn’t vaccinated. I wasn’t hiding it from anybody. I was trying to minimize and mitigate this conversation that would go on and on.”
NFL Media reported this week that Rodgers received homeopathic treatment from his personal doctor to raise his antibody levels and asked the NFLPA to review his status. The players’ union, the NFL-NFLPA jointly designated infectious disease consultant and the league agreed that Rodgers’ treatment did not provide any documented protection from the coronavirus. Accordingly, Rodgers did not qualify for an exemption, and he remained subject to a variety of restrictions, including daily testing, mask-wearing and high-risk close-contact protocol that would force him to isolate for five days based on interaction with a positive individual, even if he tested negative.
On Friday, Rodgers criticized the NFL’s decision regarding his treatment. Rodgers also railed against the league’s protocols for unvaccinated players, saying multiple times that he believes they aren’t scientifically backed. He specifically took issue with masking rules for unvaccinated players when speaking to the media or on the sideline when inactive. Rodgers has not worn a mask during media interviews this year, a matter the NFL is reviewing.
“There have been conversations with it,” Rodgers said, when asked by former teammate A.J. Hawk if there has been communication with the league or Packers on his not wearing a mask during media availability. “I would add this to the mix as an aside. The great [Martin Luther King Jr.] said that you have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that make no sense. In my opinion, it makes no sense for me. I test every single day. Every single day.
“If I test in the morning, and I wear a mask in the entire facility, and you want me to wear a mask just to shame me that I’m not vaccinated, to continue to perpetuate a story that I’m not vaccinated, in a room where the only way you can get in that room is if you’re fully vaccinated against a virus that I don’t have as an unvaccinated person … Not to mention, you’re sitting more than six feet away from me — in most cases, 20 feet away from me … Where’s the science in that? Where’s the science in that that says, ‘Oh, that makes perfect sense’? So it was my opinion that that wasn’t rooted in any science. Every other protocol, I followed to the T.”
The NFL protocols were negotiated and agreed to with the NFLPA, for which Rodgers was a players’ rep until Nov. 2020.
Following his positive test, Rodgers will be exempted from daily COVID-19 testing for the next 90 days — until the week before the Super Bowl. He is still subject to daily symptom screening and weekly testing.
After learning he had contracted the virus, the 37-year-old said he consulted with podcast host Joe Rogan on treatments.
“I’ve been taking monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, zinc, vitamin C and D, HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) … and I feel pretty incredible,” Rodgers said.
The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 in humans or animals.
In the interview, which lasted more than 45 minutes, Rodgers chided the media for what he deems unfair labeling of unvaccinated people across the country.
“The situation that I’m in should be a conversation, not a controversy. I’ve made a decision based on what’s best for my body. I just laid it out to you, my health history and why I made this decision,” Rodgers said. “This shouldn’t be a controversy. This should be a conversation. Because of this virus and testing positive, I have to miss 10 days — again the scientifics of that arbitrary number are whatever. I feel really good, and if this were the flu, there’s no reason I wouldn’t play on Sunday, especially the way I feel right now.”
Unvaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 are subject to a minimum 10-day quarantine. The earliest Rodgers could return is the day before the Packers’ Week 10 game against Seattle.
Backup quarterback Jordan Love, Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2020, will make his first start for the Packers this Sunday.
“I’m very excited for Jordan,” Rodgers said. “I have had conversations with him. It’s going to be very strange to watch the game without being there, just my third time ever watching a game on TV of a team that I’ve been on. The other two were post-surgeries in 2006 and 2017. So that’s going to be hard. But look, I hope that we can take a step back, quit lying, quit with the witch hunt and the canceling and realize this is a conversation to be had, not a controversy, and let’s move this forward with some love and connection.”
Pfizer said Friday that its easy-to-administer Covid-19 pill, used in combination with a widely used HIV drug, cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in high-risk adults who’ve been exposed to the virus.
It’s now the second antiviral pill behind Merck’s to demonstrate strong effectiveness for treating Covid at the first sign of illness. If cleared by regulators, it would likely be a game changer in the ongoing global pandemic fight.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC the company plans to submit its data to the Food and Drug Administration before Thanksgiving.
“I think this medicine will change the way things are happening right now that will save millions and millions of lives, it has the potential to do it,” Bourla said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He said the company has “the capacity right now of 500 million pills,” which he said translates to 50 million treatments. “The very high efficacy comes even to us as a surprise, exceeds our most visionary expectations we had for that.”
The company’s shares jumped by about 8% in morning trading.
Pfizer’s pill, scientifically known as PF-07321332, is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme the virus needs to replicate in human cells. Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
The HIV drug helps slow the metabolism, or breakdown, of Pfizer’s pill in order for it to remain active in the body for longer periods of time at higher concentrations, the company said.
The company said its data on the drug is based on a mid-to-late stage study of 1,219 adults who had at least one underlying medical condition and a laboratory-confirmed infection within a five-day period. Participants were also given a low dose of ritonavir, a medication commonly used in combination treatments for HIV.
Pfizer said there were six hospitalizations and zero deaths out of the 607 trial participants who received the pill in combination with the HIV drug within five days of symptom onset. That compares with 41 hospitalizations and 10 deaths out of the 612 people who received a placebo.
“These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved by regulatory authorities, has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
Unlike Gilead Sciences’ intravenous drug remdesivir, Pfizer’s and Merck’s drugs can be taken by mouth. While vaccinations remain the best form of protection against the virus, health experts hope pills like these will keep the disease from progressing in those who do get infected and prevent trips to the hospital.
Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said Oct. 1 that they’ve developed a drug that, when administered alone, reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by around 50% for patients with mild or moderate cases of Covid.
The antiviral pill made by Merck was approved by Britain’s medicines regulator on Thursday.
June Raine, chief executive of the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said that Merck’s pill will greatly facilitate the treatment of Covid, a disease that has killed more than 5 million people globally and caused tremendous strain on health systems.
Bourla told CNBC in April that Pfizer’s pill could be available to Americans by the end of this year.