December 7, 2021
  • December 7, 2021

Ole Miss sets an example in the South, which is wary of vaccines

By on August 19, 2021 0

The dichotomy in Mississippi is striking.

The state has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country. Its hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed by people with this potentially fatal disease.

Yet in the face of all this disheartening news, the flagship university’s football team is fully vaccinated – all 240 coaches, players and staff.

It will be fascinating to see how much of an influence coach Lane Kiffin and his Ole Miss players have on those who have been reluctant to adopt, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, their best defense against the coronavirus pandemic.

This goes for the whole of the South Eastern Conference, the most powerful football league in the country and which, under normal circumstances, wields enormous influence in its part of the country.

“Getting out and talking about it… is one thing,” Kiffin said during an appearance last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talk show. “But when a team, an entire organization – not just the players – decides to do it 100%, I’d like to think that’s pretty telling for a lot of people who were just sitting on the edge or not really motivated to do it. -the.

“I bet our numbers are increasing,” he continued in prognosis. “It’s pretty cool.”

These numbers have nowhere to go but upwards.

According to data compiled last week by the Mayo Clinic, only 42.7% of Mississippi residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Only one other state (Idaho at 42.1%) had a lower vaccination rate.

This is particularly disheartening news as the highly contagious Delta variant sweeps across the country, bringing new cases, hospitalizations and deaths to levels approaching the dark days of the pandemic in January – when vaccines were not yet widely available.

Mississippi is not alone, especially in its part of the country, to see a large section of the population expressing disconcerting opposition to vaccines that have been shown to be surprisingly effective in reducing both infection rates and, more importantly, the risks of becoming seriously ill.

Across all 11 SEC states, the anti-vax movement is strong.

Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Missouri were the only SEC states last week with vaccination rates above 50%. The other seven had not yet reached that modest threshold, even though vaccines are free and practically available now on every corner.

The numbers are particularly troubling when you consider the example set by the big power football programs in these states.

The Georgia Bulldogs have said more than 90% of their players are fully vaccinated, while Alabama coach Nick Saban recently announced his team is getting closer to that number. Saban also made public service announcements urging Alabamians to get vaccinated.

“We feel really comfortable where we are,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said as the practice began. “My goal, as always, is to be 100%. I think it’s the safest thing for our players.

While many programs have resumed their usual activities, this is not the case in Georgia. For example, the Bulldogs have yet to open media practices and still conduct all Zoom security interviews.

“I wouldn’t say it’s back to normal because it’s not quite normal,” Smart said. “There are spikes across the country, in our state, in our hospital systems across the Southeastern Conference. It’s scary. We are extremely smart and make good decisions with our players. “

Behind the scenes, Georgia are also aware that, even with such a high vaccination rate among their players, the virus should not be taken lightly.

“We’re confident that we can get a bit close at times in certain meeting rooms, but we try to be smart about that,” Smart said. “You are not as good as your last COVID test. “

These coaches have selfish reasons for pushing their teams to get vaccinated, of course.

With the pandemic raging again and the start of the season just a week away, vaccines are the best defense against schools that have to forgo games – and possibly ruin any league hopes – because they don’t have enough healthy players to take the field.

The SEC has already announced that packages – not postponements or cancellations, like last season – are on the table if COVID-19 disrupts the season.

The PAC-12 joined this position last week.

At Ole Miss, Kiffin and his staff tried to set an example for the players by getting the jab. They also brought in outside doctors to address the concerns of those worried about possible side effects or worried about the safety of vaccines.

“We didn’t do anything to anyone,” Kiffin said. “Our coaches and all our staff did it awhile ago, so our players know how important it is. We weren’t going to tell them, advise them what is the best thing to do, if we weren’t doing it ourselves.

He knows that adopting the vaccine has its own possible side effects in a state where anti-vax resentment is so fierce.

But here’s hoping that Ole Miss – and other SEC schools – are able to point their states in the right direction. Lives, literally, depend on it.

“Obviously we would like everyone who comes to the games to be vaccinated,” Kiffin said. “I know it’s controversial to say, but it’s the right thing to do.”

It shouldn’t be controversial.

Not at all.

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