Aaron Rodgers: NFL has created a 'two-class system' for vaccinated players vs. unvaccinated

Fifty-three days after a defiant Aaron Rodgers drew a firestorm over his comments on "The Pat McAfee Show" related to his decision not to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the Green Bay Packers quarterback went there again Tuesday. 

For more than 12 minutes on the McAfee show, Rodgers, who previously gave a misleading answer when asked about being vaccinated during a news conference in August, sounded off on the NFL's protocols, saying the league has created a "two-class system" of the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated, referenced a doctor who has spread misinformation about the pandemic and called science "propaganda" if it can't be questioned. 

McAfee got Rodgers started on COVID-19 when he asked for his thoughts on whether the NFL will change their protocols based on the recent updated guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has lowered the number of days those infected with COVID-19 should isolate. 

(Warning: Some strong language in video and Twitter clips)

NFL shortens quarantine period for asymptomatic players

On Tuesday, the NFL and NFL Players Association followed suit, agreeing to shorten the amount of time that team personnel who have tested positive must quarantine for five days, if they don't show symptoms. There remains a more strict protocol for unvaccinated players, including the frequency of testing and limitations on their activity. 

Rodgers said he doesn't "have that fear" around COVID-19 because he doesn't have to test for the virus. Per NFL protocols, since Rodgers had COVID-19, he doesn't have to test for the virus for 90 days. He's in that window until a few days after the NFC championship game. However, testing is available for any player with symptoms and nonvaccinated players, like vaccinated players, can still be infected multiple times.

"What I don't understand, though, it makes no sense to me to continue to spread this narrative that nonvaccinated players are more dangerous or these superspreaders, which hasn't been proven to be true," Rodgers said. "I don't understand this two-class system that exists in our league." 

Rodgers said the science "is changing all the time."

"It doesn't back it up," Rodgers said. "There's not many unvaccinated guys left in the league but it's obviously not a pandemic of the unvaxxed. ... It doesn't make sense to me we're still punishing nonvaccinated."

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When the COVID-19 delta variant became the dominant strain in the United States this year, prior to the omicron variant taking hold in the country this month, unvaccinated people were five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die than those who were vaccinated, the CDC said.

A report by Wisconsin's state health department in November found similar statistics regarding those who were unvaccinated vs. those who were vaccinated. 

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky this summer said the country was in "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" where case counts were rising in communities with low vaccination numbers. 

Breakthrough infections are becoming more frequent with the omicron variant, but public health officials say a way to limit infection or the severity of it is to be vaccinated and to receive a booster shot. 

In combating omicron, according to Pfizer, a third dose of their vaccine increases the antibody protection by 25-fold compared to two doses. Moderna said its booster increased antibody levels 37-fold, compared with the levels seen when a fully vaccinated person does not receive a booster.

"What I don't understand is vaccinated people blaming nonvaccinated people because the vaccine that they took to avoid getting the virus didn't stop them from getting the virus," Rodgers said. 

COVID-19 vs. the flu

Rodgers then questioned why the league is treating COVID-19 different than the flu.

He referenced when there was a flu outbreak on the Packers two years ago and how the team "was smart about it" and players stayed home when they had symptoms.

"It seems like this is very similar to the flu," said Rodgers, referencing the omicron variant. "Why are we still having this two-class system?"

While some of the COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu, the two are not the same, the CDC says

Influenza, also known as the flu, and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. 

COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses, the CDC says. The agency also says COVID-19 appears to spread much faster and it can take longer before people show symptoms of COVID-19, which is why over the last 20 months it has been recommending people wear masks in indoor settings and social distance, especially for those who are unvaccinated. 

COVID-19 has killed 818,000 in the United States since early 2020 and 5.41 million worldwide. 

Flu activity was "unusually low throughout the 2020-21 flu season both in the United States and globally," with 1,899 cases or (0.2% of the tests collected) despite a high level of testing. But with fewer health restrictions in place this winter, flu cases are on the rise and public health officials are concerned about a twin-demic with COVID-19, which could overload the health care system.

A week ago on the the Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers touched on why non-approved treatments aren't being used more to treat COVID-positive people and falsely claimed that people with COVID can't spread the disease. 

Rodgers touts ivermectin, pushes for alternative treatments

Rodgers again cited getting COVID-19 information from podcast host and comedian Joe Rogan. He also for the first time referenced Peter McCullough, a cardiologist who has spread false information around the virus and the pandemic on Rogan's show.  

Rodgers said he took ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies to treat his COVID-19. Ivermectin has been pushed by some in conservative media but has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat or prevent COVID-19. Investigative monoclonal antibodies have been given federal emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19.

Rodgers said there are many teams recommending a lot of the same treatments that he took.

"There's treatments being talked about behind closed doors," he claimed. "It needs to be not just talked about with NFL players but with the rest of the country. There are treatments that helped (me). If you don’t agree with the ones I had, then let’s come up with some other ones instead of putting people in isolation."

Remdesivir is the only FDA-approved drug to treat COVID-19.  

"If science can’t be questioned, it’s not science anymore. It’s propaganda," Rodgers said. "When did science become this blind agreement and not having any debate over what can actually heal people and work for people?" 

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This fall, Rodgers said he submitted 500 pages of research and wanted non-approved medicine to be counted as being vaccinated for COVID-19. The NFL did not give him clearance and considered him unvaccinated. He was fined for violating protocols. He attended a Halloween party with multiple teammates days before his positive test, which was against NFL protocols for unvaccinated players. 

"I didn't endanger anyone at the Halloween party," Rodgers claimed Tuesday.

Rodgers previously said he was allergic to ingredients in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and had concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

"I researched ... and made the best interest of my body," said Rodgers, who is against vaccine mandates. 

"I’m sharing my opinion," Rodgers said. "I’m not a doctor, I get it. I consulted with a number of doctors and figured out what worked best for me. I'm not some uneducated person. You want to rip on me because I took horse de-wormer, that's fine. But I also got better in 48 hours and I had symptoms." 

Animal ivermectin is approved to prevent heartworm disease and treat certain internal and external parasites and only approved by the FDA to treat people with conditions caused by parasitic worms. Some topical forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions.

Rodgers said he wants "a healthy debate" around COVID-19 to "hear both sides" but that he's not concerned what people who want to "cancel" him say about him because of their lack of social media following.

"They are less than double-digit likes or retweets. It does zero for me to interact with these people," Rodgers said.

Contact Christopher Kuhagen at (262) 446-6634 or christopher.kuhagen@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ckuhagen and our newsroom Instagram accounts at MyCommunityNow and Lake Country Now