“Yeah, I had [COVID-19] but that doesn’t mean I can’t get it again. It is no different than with somebody with the vaccine. Yes, I developed the antibodies for it so my chances would be less likely now as well, right? But still a possibility I may get it. Just like there are players and coaches and staff who are [vaccinated] and missing camp because of [COVID-19] right now,” Beal said.
Beal is right in saying he should have some natural immunity, but, as we have written before, the previously infected can benefit from getting a COVID-19 vaccine. In August, the CDC released a study that found unvaccinated Kentucky residents who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 in 2020 had a 2.3 times greater chance of being reinfected in May and June 2021 compared with the fully vaccinated.
E. John Wherry, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Immunology, told FactCheck.org in a phone interview that the vaccines improved the immune response in individuals who had previously been infected by raising the levels of neutralizing antibodies.
“Some people actually have fairly low antibody responses that are not sufficient to neutralize the virus, especially variant viruses. When you vaccinate them uniformly, you get high antibody titers [measurements] and high neutralization titers, so there’s an improvement in at least one of the key metrics of immunity following vaccination,” explained Wherry, one of the lead authors of a study looking at the immune responses to the mRNA vaccines in individuals with and without previous infections.
Beal said that he understands both sides of the “vaccination argument,” adding that his parents, older brothers and “people very close” to him are vaccinated. He also said he has “people very close and related” to him that aren’t vaccinated.
Beal’s wife, Kamiah Adams-Beal, tweeted in January, “Yalllll go right ahead and play around with that vaccine if you want to.” In a separate Instagram post, she seemed to imply that baseball legend Hank Aaron’s death earlier this year was caused by the vaccine. As we’ve reported, the medical examiner’s office in Fulton County, Georgia, attributed Aaron’s death to natural causes.
Rare Risk of Adverse Effects
Beal also expressed concerns about side effects of the vaccine. “Some people have bad reactions to the vaccine. Nobody likes to talk about that. What happens if one of our players gets the vaccine and they can’t play after that or they have complications after that because there are cases like that. But I feel like we don’t talk about those as heavily because they are so minute maybe? But they are existent.”
The CDC reports that many people who get the vaccines experience mild side effects — such as pain at the injection site, a headache, chills or fever. The CDC also explains a “small number of people have had a severe allergic reaction (called ‘anaphylaxis’) after vaccination, but this is rare. If this occurs, vaccination providers have medicines available to effectively and immediately treat the reaction.” There have been 2 to 5 cases of anaphylaxis per 1 million vaccine doses administered, according to the CDC.
The CDC is also continuing to investigate the relationship between the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines and rare cases of myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (an inflammation of the surrounding lining of the heart), particularly in males ages 30 and younger. As of Sept. 22, the CDC and FDA have confirmed 892 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. Most patients “responded well to treatment and rest and quickly felt better,” the CDC notes. More than 370 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have been administered in the U.S.
The day after the NBA press conference, Beal said he is “still considering getting the vaccine.”
Although the NBA is not mandating vaccination for all players, individual teams have the authority to require vaccinations for players and staff during the season. Players in New York City and San Francisco are required to get vaccinated in order to play in home games, unlike Beal and the Wizards.
Michele Roberts, outgoing executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill in July that 10% of the league’s players remained unvaccinated. The WNBA announced in June that 99% of its players were fully vaccinated.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
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