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NFL alumni, CDC fight COVID-19 vaccination hesitation


They are two of 15 Hall of Famers from 40 current and former players who are part of a community outreach and education campaign to help build COVID-19 vaccination confidence.

NFL Alumni Health teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch the program this summer as vaccination rates slow as cases due to the Delta variant continue to rise.

The campaign aims to dispel common myths about the vaccine and encourage undecided people to seek advice from their health professionals to help them make up their mind.

Initiatives include public service announcements, a campaign website and the presence of former players at vaccination events across the country.

“It’s people who are on the fence, not sure, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Faulk told the Associated Press. “The beauty of our country is a democracy to do or not to do. But for those who are not doing it because of poor information or communication, we are trying to help.”

Woodson said he was sure more people would be taken into his arms if they ignored the noise on social media and asked their health professionals about the vaccine.

“I’m not the person who gets the flu shot every year. But it’s completely different,” Woodson said. “So I think you have to make the right decisions and get educated. I think you should always continue your education no matter what happens. But when a pandemic strikes in our backyard, we just have to talk to the experts. Must be heard and not politicized.It is about life and death.

“We’re saying, ‘Listen to your experts, talk to your local doctors, and make the right decisions,'” Woodson said. “Make the right decisions not only for yourself but for your loved ones, your communities, your families, your team, whatever you do on a daily basis.”

Woodson said he and his wife and four of their five children contracted COVID-19 last year. He said he and his wife were vaccinated soon after their daughter’s boyfriend lost his father, who had diabetes and high blood pressure, to the virus.

“He got COVID, went to the hospital and never came out,” Woodson said. “When I saw the hurt on my daughter’s boyfriend’s face from her father’s death, I meant, he was like, no, I can’t be the guy who could do that to anyone else.”

The illness hit home for Faulk when his coach Wayne Reese at George Washington Carver High School in New Orleans died at the age of 74 after contracting COVID-19 in spring 2020 after 49 years of coaching.

“It was just sad. He’s in the hospital with his wife for 50 years at home, he’s dying in the hospital himself,” Faulk said. “There’s a lot of tragedy around it.”

Faulk and Woodson said their message is the same for dozens of NFL players who do not want to be vaccinated and must therefore follow strict safety protocols that include daily virus testing and mask mandates.

“If that’s how you lived your life and played your season last year, if that’s okay with you, then keep going,” Faulk said.

Added Woodson: “We are very fortunate to play a sport, a sport, and are very well paid for it. And here in America one thing we consider very important is our freedom of choice. And they exercise that freedom by not getting vaccinated.

“But one thing I like is that the NFL this year said, ‘Okay, you’re exercising your freedom to get it, well, we’re going to exercise our freedom as a company. If you cause a game to be canceled, you lose it and then we’re going to fine you. And no team gets paid on top of that,” Woodson said.

Other Hall of Famers participating in the campaign starting this week are: Derrick Brooks, Harry Carson, Chris Carter, Brian Dawkins, Franco Harris, Michael Haynes, Howie Long, Anthony Munoz, John Randall, Andre Reid, Jerry Rice, Will Shields and Andre Tippett.

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL

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