Most NFL Teams Reach Herd Immunity for Players With 80 Percent Vaccinated for COVID

Most teams in the NFL have reached herd immunity, as 80 percent of players are fully or partially vaccinated, the Associated Press reported. The percentage is even higher for nine teams that have 90 percent of players in the process of getting vaccinated.

Additionally, nearly all Tier 1 and 2 team employees who deal directly with the athletes are now vaccinated, said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical officer. Five of the league's teams have less than 70 percent of players fully or partially vaccinated, but Sills believes the rate will rise when training camps begin, the Associated Press reported.

"I think we are off to an excellent start," Sills said. "Those numbers are much higher than what we're seeing in society as a whole."

Sills said that vaccination advocates among the league's players and coaches, as well as other educational resources, "influenced a lot of players."

"I think we are still seeing a lot of positive momentum. Numbers are changing on a day-by-day basis and I think we'll be seeing them day by day going up," Sills said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at Draft
The NFL has informed teams they could potentially forfeit a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players, and players on both teams wouldn’t get paid that week. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, wearing a COVID-19 vaccinated sticker, speaks during the first round of the NFL football draft in Cleveland in this April 29 file photo. Steve Luciano/AP Photo

"What matters is that individuals have the most accurate information. Let's not get information from Instagram or Facebook posts. Let's try to hear from the most reputable professionals," Sills said. "You don't shout anyone into belief here—there have to be thoughtful conversations. What we can do is provide the facts and make sure the entirety of the medical facts are presented."

On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 teams warning that forfeited regular-season games could occur for a COVID-19 outbreak caused by nonvaccinated players.

Dawn Aponte, the league's chief football administrative officer, reiterated that games will not be postponed to avoid roster issues because of the flexibility built in: COVID-19 replacement players; expanded practice squads to 16 players; a three-week minimum stay on injured reserve instead of six weeks; no limit on activating players from IR.

That means 272 games can take place on time within 18 weeks "safely and responsibly," she said.

"Flexible and adaptable will continue to be key," Aponte added, noting that Goodell's memo was vetted by people in a variety of NFL roles. "We are committed to playing a full season as scheduled. There is the no-play/no-pay provision (from 2020), which has been agreed to with the players' association and will carry into this season."

"Health and science truly is what drives and guides these decisions," she added. "And I think we illustrated that last season and will continue to do so. I think we know a lot more this year…the biggest difference is a vaccination is available."

The league has said that determining who makes the roster can't involve whether a player is vaccinated. Policing such roster moves would be difficult, but Aponte dismissed any conspiracy theories.

"Cutting players is for their performance," she said. "And I don't think clubs will—I can't stand in their shoes—but I think there are protocols that have been put in place…that are not restricting their ability to perform. I don't see the two tying together."

Still, it is clear the league and the players' union are strongly advocating vaccinations with every move they make.

"No one is trying to be punitive or anything like that," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "Simply, if your choice is not to get vaccinated, it's going to be a much more difficult season."

NFL Logo on Field
Most teams in the NFL reached herd immunity as 80 percent of players are fully or partially vaccinated. Above, the NFL logo is seen on the field before a football game between the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders in Denver on January. 3. Jack Dempsey/AP Photo