The Minnesota Vikings are doing everything they can to help increase their vaccination rate among players as we get closer to the 2021 season.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday morning that the Vikings brought in renowned epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm to speak to the team, per sources informed of the situation.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he thought the session "went well," but couldn't say for sure whether any minds had been changed among the unvaccinated players.
"He's one of the top specialists in the world and I thought he was very good with his points, answered a lot of questions. You know, whether or not that changes anything, I don't know," Zimmer told reporters. "But we're very thankful that he was able to come over here and talk to the team in person. It was great to meet him. He understands the importance of when people look up to our football players, especially now with all this -- I don't want to get into it all that much -- with this delta variant, how it's affecting younger people all over the world, I think that the more that we can show that it's safe and young kids, not younger than 11, but these kids can get vaccinated, we're all going to stay healthier."
Minnesota's vaccination rate among players has lagged behind other NFL teams. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is among the most high-profile players in the NFL not to be vaccinated. Minnesota's QB room has already dealt with missing time due to a COVID-19 case for rookie Kellen Mond.
Zimmer has been vocal about his frustration regarding his team's status related to the vaccine.
Players like Cousins have repeatedly stated that they are doing their own research regarding the vaccine. To aid that process, the Vikings will brought in an expert to talk to the players in hopes of convincing the holdouts that the vaccine is safe and will help the team better navigate the 2021 season without restrictions that come from not getting the shot.
Also on Monday, the F.D.A. granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 16 and older.
Zimmer said he didn't know if the F.D.A.'s announcement would mean anything to his unvaccinated players.
"I don't know. I guess, but some of the questions that were asked are things that you hear on the internet and things like that," Zimmer said. "Like (Osterholm) said, he was going to 100 percent honest. If he knows the answer, he'll tell you. If he didn't know it, he'd tell it as well. I thought he did a terrific job and hopefully it helps.
"I just… I care about these players and I care about their families. So that's my main reason. If they miss a game because they get COVID, so be it. But I don't want them to get sick, and I don't want their families to get sick and their kids to get sick or my grandkids to get sick."