The NBA has increased the urgency regarding taking booster shots against the coronavirus and has told players and coaches it is no longer advisable to wait to receive the extra dose.
The booster shots should be “received as soon as possible, especially in light of the current coronavirus situation and increasing cases,” the league told teams on Friday in a memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.
Earlier in the week, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said they recommended receiving the booster shots by those who are fully vaccinated, suggesting that this should be done before December 1 in most cases.
But with positivity rising in many parts of the country and community transmission of COVID-19 in most NBA markets deemed “high” or “substantial” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the league felt and the union’s added urgency is justified. The NBA has recently seen increased positivity among vaccinated players, team staff and family members, which is consistent with the trends in many places around the country.
At least eight players are known to be on the league’s health and safety protocols, meaning they have tested positive for COVID-19. Another who had been in protocols, Tobias Harris of Philadelphia, played his first game back on Thursday night since testing positive.
Harris missed six games and suffered from symptoms.
“I’m working my way back into it,” Harris said.
Other NBA players currently known to be in the league’s protocols include Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe, San Antonio teammates Jakob Poeltl and Jock Landale, Cleveland teammates Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen, and Nikola Vucevic of Chicago.
People who are fully vaccinated are still highly protected from hospitalization and death from COVID-19. But immunity to infection can wane over time, and the extra-infectious delta variant spreads widely. The NBA – following the lead of the American health authorities – wants to strengthen the protection of at-risk patients who were vaccinated months ago.
Competition guidelines earlier this week made it clear that those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago should prioritize getting a Pfizer or Moderna booster soon. Those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than six months ago were also told to look for boosters earlier in the week.
About 97% of NBA players have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the league said. The most notable standout is Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, a perennial All-Star who is banned from playing by the Nets until he is vaccinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.