The New Orleans Pelicans are the first NBA team to have received COVID-19 vaccinations, with the team announcing eligible players and staff had gotten their first shots.
In welcome news for the NBA, which has battled disruptions caused by players contracting the virus, leading to games being postponed and stars sitting out either due to quarantine or mandatory contact tracing, it could mean the league will eventually be able to return to more normal operation by the beginning of the 2021/2022 season.
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The Pelicans did not announce which players had been vaccinated, however guard Sindarius Thornwell and forward Nicolo Melli both took to Twitter to reveal they were getting the jab.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said back in December that the league would not 'jump the line' and try to have players and teams vaccinated early, but the decision in Louisiana to expand eligibility for the vaccine to anyone aged over 18 will surely be a welcome one.
So far 31 games have been postponed this season due to the coronavirus, all of which are to be rescheduled for the second half of the season.
In a statement, the New Orleans Pelicans encouraged anyone eligible for the jab to go and get it.
“On March 9th, the State of Louisiana expanded the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to include people 18 years of age or older (16 years or older for the Pfizer vaccine) who meet certain health criteria that may result in a higher risk of disease," the Pelicans said in a statement.
"Yesterday, individuals within the New Orleans Pelicans organisation who met the state health department’s eligibility requirements received the vaccine.
"The Pelicans support the state’s vital efforts to encourage everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as large-scale vaccination of our community is the best way to keep everyone safe and to end the COVID-19 pandemic."
The Pelicans also announced that they would work with health authorities to create public service announcements encouraging members of the public to get vaccinated.
Additionally, ESPN journalist Tim McMahon reported the Dallas Mavericks are awaiting NBA approval to have their team vaccinated as well.
Pelicans player Nicolo Melli, who hails from Italy where the coronavirus devastated the nation's health system in 2020, said he was thankful to have had the vaccine in a post on Twitter.
"I got the first Covid vaccine shot yesterday. I feel lucky that I had this opportunity. Can’t wait to get second shot in three weeks. If you can, get it," he wrote.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver optimistic on vaccine rollout
League commissioner Adam Silver has been optimistic about the rollout of the vaccine, saying he was hopeful players would provide a good example to the public and accept the vaccinations.
Players have been restricted from visiting friends and family at their leisure in order for the NBA season to proceed, with players also subject to strict quarantine and contact tracing protocols in the event they or someone they have been in contact with returns a positive test for the virus.
Several star players have missed games, most notably the recent scratching of Philadelphia 76ers duo Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons after a barber the pair visited prior to last week's All-Star game tested positive.
“To those who have been hesitaters, I think as tens of millions of people now in the United States have gotten the vaccine, that people are seeing at least in the short term what the impact is, and they’re hearing about how incredibly effective these vaccines are,” Silver said.
“My hunch is that most players ultimately will choose to get vaccinated.”
However there hasn't yet been a united front among players in terms of getting the vaccine, with the likes of LA Lakers superstar LeBron James publicly saying his decision to be vaccinated would stay between him and his family.
"That's a conversation between you and your family and not for everybody," he said earlier this month.
"I'll keep it that way."
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