Vaccinated Athletes Test Positive, Giving Events Headaches

Olympics, playoffs, tourneys have to assess risks from 'breakthrough infections'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2021 4:45 PM CDT
Vaccinated Athletes Test Positive, Giving Events Headaches
Jon Rahm of Spain lines up a putt Saturday at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Despite being vaccinated, top athletes are still testing positive for the coronavirus, putting major sporting events—including the Olympics—in a tough spot. Athletes and staff members in sports are being administered tests regularly, and though there are far fewer cases being reported than early in the pandemic, some are showing up as "breakthrough infections." The vaccines succeed at preventing serious illnesses, the Wall Street Journal reports, but not always at blocking coronavirus infections. That's now been discovered by golfer Jon Rahm, NBA player Chris Paul, and the New York Yankees. The Yankees players and employees had all had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a month or two before, and Rahm had had it days before testing positive in the middle of a tournament, probably costing him a big payday. Paul, who also was vaccinated, had to miss some playoff games, though he was asymptomatic.

The timing of their vaccinations has been a consideration for athletes. They often try to get their shots when side effects won't interfere with a competition. A few British Olympians have turned down vaccinations because they fear possible side effects such as headaches or tiredness will hamper their training, per the Guardian. But athletes also want to get past the two-week window after receiving shots to be sure they're fully protected. And the shots haven't always been available on demand everywhere; some athletes around the world planning to go to the Tokyo Games are just now gaining access to a vaccine. After telling athletes that vaccinations will produce negative tests and keep them in competition, Olympic officials now have to consider what risk breakthrough infections pose to other athletes, the event, or even the Japanese population. (More coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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