Rodgers is not just any football player. Last year, he was named the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player for the third time. He has hosted “Jeopardy” and he has 4.5 million followers on Twitter.
“Any very public figure who is ambiguous in the first place and then makes misstatements is certainly contrary to what we are trying to achieve from a public health perspective,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “And all of us who are in public health, I think I am allowed to speak on behalf of my colleagues across the country, would be very sorry.”
Rodgers spoke again on the radio program this week. He said he took “full responsibility” for “anyone who felt misled” by his comments, but Rodgers did not try to correct anything he said earlier.
That, said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupte, was “deeply irresponsible” for “intentionally or unintentionally giving a lot of voice to the anti-vaccination movement. At a time when we are still in the midst of a pandemic, more than 1,000 people are still dying from this disease every day” in the United States. States, Gupte said on CNN this week.
Rodgers echoed some of the most common misinformation about the vaccines and treatments circulating around the country, said medical analyst Dr. CNN’s Leana Wen, calling it sort of “best hits” of all the bogus claims.
“What he’s saying is a synthesis of all the major myths and misinformation, and it’s like we’re writing a guide to fighting misinformation,” Wen said.
“These are things that are common myths,” Wen said. “But if it’s repeated by someone with this level of celebrity and influence, it’s very dangerous.”
Some even question whether the media is perpetuating Covid-19 and vaccine misinformation by continuing to write and talk about what Rodgers said.
“Part of the challenge, whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or anyone else, is that the commentary and coverage of it further amplifies the message,” said Sandra Crouse Quinn, chair of the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland.
Scientists and public health officials don’t have the capacity to reach millions of people the way Rodgers can, Quinn said.
“So it’s an unequal battle in many ways,” she said, pointing out that Rodgers’ followers follow him because he’s a great footballer. “Would you go to a cobbler and have your tooth pulled, I don’t know, because you really like him and he’s a great cobbler?”
Research shows misinformation is widespread
“Ultimately, this comes down to fear. A lot of people are afraid. They’re afraid because of what they’ve heard about the vaccine,” Wen said. “They don’t know what to believe. And if you have someone who is influential, like Aaron Rodgers, who says things that aren’t true, it can ultimately validate people’s decision to stay unvaccinated.”
In Wisconsin, where the Packers are based, only 55.1% of the population is fully vaccinated.
“He’s in a position to really motivate the state of Wisconsin and the entire nation to get vaccinated. Instead of widening this gap, let’s open doors,” Neitzel said.
The fact that Rodgers misled people in August by saying he was “immunized” was one of the most striking things about his recent admission that he hasn’t been vaccinated, doctors say.
“Immunized has a very specific meaning,” Schaffner said. ‘It’s in the dictionary. It doesn’t mean some non-specific protection.”
“I am reminded of the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who once said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts,” Schaffner said. “He said a series of things that, purely from a scientific point of view, were factually incorrect. I mean, this professor marks those answers as wrong. Minus 10 on the exam.’
And some of the “treatments” Rodgers talked about can be harmful, Schaffner said.
Rodgers got one thing right when he told the radio show host that “hate won’t get us out of this pandemic”.
But there’s one thing that could do well: vaccines, scientists say.