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After an impressive win surge at the beginning of August, the Philadelphia Phillies are vying for top place in the National League East. But the team is still behind in vaccination.
COVID-19 continues to spread through baseball clubhouses, with the Yankees the latest franchise disrupted by the virus. At least two-thirds of MLB teams had reached the league’s target threshold of 85% vaccinated by early summer.
The issue faded to the background as the Phils began climbing the standings, but it’s becoming pressing again as the delta variant spikes city infection rates. Star slugger Bryce Harper has been a big part of the win streak, finally delivering the kind of performance his $330 million contract deserves.
His performance at the plate has landed Harper firmly in the conversation for league MVP. But is he vaxxed or not? Fans have been asking. Here’s what we know.
Harper brushed off the pandemic at the start
Back in the different universe that was early March 2020, Harper said he wasn’t concerned about COVID as the MLB began to take precautions and talk about postponing the season.
“I live, man,” he said in an interview. “I don’t worry about a disease or a virus. I live my life. I’m doing everything the same. I’m shaking people’s hands, I’m high-fiving. I’m healthy. I’m 27. The people that are affected, it’s a lot of older and maybe some young, as well. But I just live my life.”
He did donate to COVID relief efforts
The very next month, Harper and his wife Kayla announced they were donating $500,000 towards covid relief efforts in his hometown of Las Vegas and in Philadelphia
“We are blessed to be together as a family during this pandemic but realize many do not have the same luxury,” Harper posted on Twitter. “As the world battles COVID-19 and its effects, we are keeping the faith and praying for a swift return to normalcy.”
Phillies management has encouraged vaccination
Then vaccines got FDA emergency use approval. Major League Baseball players were given access in early spring.
In the months since, the Phillies organization has partnered with Philadelphia on several vaccination events offering vaccine to the general public, with the Phanatic serving as a spokesperson. As of August, more than 63% of Philly residents are fully vaccinated, and 77% have gotten at least one shot.
Internally, it’s been a different story. Phillies general manager Dave Dombrowski spoke about the team’s vaccination efforts.
“First of all, yes, we’ve encouraged the players to be vaccinated,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve done that from the beginning of the season, really from spring training until the beginning of the season, and have continued to do so. We’ve educated them, given them material, had presentations made to them. But I also do think it’s a personal decision.”
Vaccinated Philadelphians are one-eighth as likely to get COVID and 1/25 as likely to get seriously sick as people without the vaccine, per acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole.
Rhys Hoskins was an early supporter of vaccination
Back in April, first baseman Rhys Hoksins became one of the first Phillies players to endorse the vaccine, and vowed to get when it became available
I will get it,” Hoskins said at the time. “I think there’s enough information and data and a lot of medical experts are pushing for people to get it. I think as a general statement, believing in what science is saying is usually a pretty safe and logical bet, so when it becomes available, I will be getting it.”
Pitcher Aaron Nola, on the other hand, said he was not planning to get vaccinated. “Not right now,” he told NBC Sports Philly in mid-July. “It’s a personal choice.”
Some fans seem pretty sure Harper isn’t vaxxed
Harper, on the other hand, has not been officially quoted in the media about his vaccination status or plans.
But there’s a lot of speculation that he’s among what The Athletic called “a handful of influential players” on the Phillies who have voiced opposition to the vaccine.