Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Friday he sought alternative treatments instead of the NFL-endorsed Covid-19 vaccinations because he is allergic to an ingredient in two of the FDA-approved shots.
Speaking on SiriusXM's "Pat McAfee Show," Rodgers said: "I'm not an anti-vax, flat-earther. I have an allergy to an ingredient that's in the mRNA vaccines. I found a long-term immunisation protocol to protect myself and I'm very proud of the research that went into that."
Rodgers, who turns 38 on December 2, did not say what ingredient he was allergic to, or how he knows he is allergic.
Rodgers, who has been tested daily as part of NFL protocols for the unvaccinated, found out he contracted Covid-19 on Wednesday. The reigning NFL MVP said he didn't feel well on Thursday but was much better on Friday.
Rodgers can't rejoin the Packers for 10 days, missing Sunday's game at Kansas City. He must have a negative test to return to the team on November 13.
During the interview with McAfee, Rodgers misquoted the CDC website, said he took advice from popular podcaster Joe Rogan and offered his explanation for why hasn't taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Rodgers said the CDC's website says "should you have an allergy to any of the ingredients, you should not get one of the mRNA vaccines. So those two (Moderna and Pfizer) were out already."
Instead the CDC site says, "If you have had a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction — even if it was not severe — to any ingredient in an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, you should not get either of the currently available mRNA Covid-19 vaccines."
Rodgers did not say he had an allergic reaction.
He said with some of the public issues involving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — clotting issues and his "hearing of multiple people who had had adverse events around getting the J&J ... the J&J shot was not even an option at that point."
The Covid-19 vaccines authorised for use in the US were tested in tens of thousands of people and proven to be both safe and effective at dramatically reducing the risk of serious disease and death. The vaccines now have been given to more than 200 million Americans and that real-world use plus extra government safety tracking have made clear that serious side effects are extremely rare — and that any risk is far lower than the risks posed by Covid-19.
There are several reasons Rodgers is unvaccinated, he said, including the likelihood that he and his fiancee, actress Shailene Woodley, would try to have children some day.
Woodley made a cryptic Instagram post on Friday, sharing a graphic that read: "Calm Seas May Bring You Peace, But Storms Are Where You'll Find Your Power."
He also invoked the memory of Dr Martin Luther King Jr to illustrate his stance against vaccine mandates.
"As an aside, the great MLK said, ''You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules and rules that made no sense'," Rodgers said. "In my opinion, it makes no sense to me. I test every single day. Every single day."
To treat his infection, Rodgers said he is relying on advice from Rogan, who has been among America's leading Covid-19 vaccine skeptics.
"I consulted a good friend of mine, Joe Rogan, and I've been doing a lot of the stuff he recommended in his podcast," Rodgers said.
Rodgers' research led him to a treatment he did not detail, and he said the NFL was aware of the treatment protocol he was using, which took "multiple months."
"The league was fully aware of it upon my return to the Packers (in August)," Rodgers said. "It was at that point that I petitioned them to accept my immunisation under their vaccination protocol."
A member of the Packers' medical staff inquired to the NFL Players Association's medical director on behalf of an anonymous player who asked if an alternative homeopathic treatment could render him as "fully vaccinated" under the protocols. That player was Rodgers.
The NFLPA's medical director, Dr Thom Mayer, shared an email from the team and related materials from Rodgers with Dr Allen Sills, the league's medical chief, and with an independent infectious disease expert, who were asked for an opinion.
The expert, hired jointly by the league and union, said he could not find in his research that the treatment offers reliable and robust Covid-19 protection — that the treatment was not the equivalent of receiving one of the three endorsed vaccines. There was a lack of scientific data demonstrating whether and how well the treatments Rodgers wanted approved would work.
The union and the doctors were never contacted again by Rodgers after his petition and a subsequent appeal were denied.
"And I also said, how come there's no exemption for medical exemptions, religious exemptions, pre-existing conditions?" Rodgers added. "And they basically said those are all basically exempted but you would be put in the non-vaccinated category."
Rodgers also told McAfee he has concerns about potential fertility issues had he taken one of the vaccinations.
Many scientists, including three doctors who specialise in reproductive health, have vouched for the safety of vaccinations for couples who want to have a baby and urged people to seek out their doctors or nurse practitioners with any questions. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and obstetrician groups also recommend Covid-19 vaccines for pregnant individuals.
Dr Stephanie Broadwell of Sanford Health Fargo, Dr Stephanie Foughty of Altru Health Devils Lake and Dr Ana Tobiaz of Sanford Health Bismarck said at a virtual North Dakota town hall in July to get the vaccine.
"I can understand that people are scared, people are nervous," Broadwell said. "I think sometimes there can be information that can be helpful and some that can be somewhat misleading. I think it's just really hard to digest all the information that is out there and stories that are filtering through that maybe even come from trusted sources."
Rodgers strongly questioned the NFL's protocols, along with any organisation forcing health requirements on individuals.
"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," he said. "Health is not a one size fits all for everybody, and for me it involved a lot of study in the offseason."