PHILADELPHIA -- Hoping to sway a group of undecided players to receive COVID-19 vaccinations later this week, the Mets held a mandatory education session for players and staff members on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
The Zoom Q&A was led by a Hospital for Special Surgery vaccination specialist unaffiliated with the team.
“There has been some hesitation on the part of some players, and that is why we set up the education,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said on Monday. “Unless we had 100 percent buy-in, education was appropriate -- and in fact, probably appropriate anyway given the number of questions that circulate around this.
"We want to get as many players vaccinated as possible, and I think that’s in the best interest of the team. It’s in the best interest of their families. It’s in the best interest of those who work with the players. So I hope that in addition to their own personal medical considerations, that they take all of those things into consideration, as well. We’re hopeful they will.”
Clubs were informed just before Opening Day that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals, and for clubs where 85 percent of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.
Some Mets players have privately told manager Luis Rojas that they will receive it, while others have said that they are undecided, calling it “a personal choice.” That latter group is the one the Mets want to educate, both to meet the 85-percent threshold and also to improve safety conditions for them and their families.
“There are incentives for public health,” Alderson said. “There are incentives to lift the kinds of restrictions they’re faced with now. So there are lots of reasons, and hopefully we’ll get as many players vaccinated as possible.”
According to New York State guidelines, all Mets became eligible to receive the vaccine this week. The team plans to make the first dose of Pfizer’s two-shot mRNA vaccine available to them after their home opener Thursday at Citi Field, so club officials felt it important to educate their players in advance of that.
Although administered by an independent vaccination expert, Tuesday’s Zoom was coordinated by Dr. Kathryn McElheny, whom the Mets recently promoted to head team physician.
“It was extremely informative,” Jeff McNeil said. “The whole team was there. Just getting to talk about it for an hour, a lot of the guys learned some stuff. It’s something that definitely needed to be had.”
Despite those reviews, Rojas said he was unsure if enough players will agree to receive the vaccine to meet MLB’s 85 percent threshold. McNeil, J.D. Davis and Michael Conforto, the latter of whom contracted COVID-19 in February, have all said that they are undecided.
“I thought it was a productive video,” said Rojas, who has committed to receiving the vaccine as soon as it is available on Thursday. “I thought it was really, really helpful. Our goal here is to reach the percentage. I think having this video today shows the encouragement we have for the guys to get vaccinated. We feel that this is what’s going to get us in the best spot as a team to get things close to normality.”