‘Natural immunity’: NBA player explains why he won’t get COVID vaccine

The Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac at a news conference Sept. 27, 2021
(Courtesy Orlando Magic)

An NBA player’s explanation for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine drew praise on social-media, including from a Twitter user who thought he did a better job than public health officials.

“Imagine,” wrote Anisha Koka, a cardiologist, if CDC Director Rochelle Walensky “framed the conversation on vaccines” the way Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac did at his team’s media day Monday.

“Bizarro world where well spoken NBA players have more nuanced conversations on vaccine policy than govt. public health professionals,” Koka wrote.

Isaac, 23, has said he is not anti-vaccine but has made a considerable effort to educate himself on the issue. One of his primary reasons for not being vaccinated is that he has had COVID-19 and argues many scientific studies indicate natural immunity is stronger than immunity conferred by the vaccines.

“I simply believe that it should be everyone’s individual right to make a decision on their vaccination status themselves without being pressure, without being bullied, without being forced into doing so,” Isaac said. “I think any other way for it is unjust.”

He said he understands the argument about vaccines increasing immunity, but “given the fact that I’ve had COVID before, I have antibodies [and with] my age group, my current physical fitness level, [COVID] is not necessarily a fear of mine.”

“I don’t believe that being unvaccinated means infected and I don’t think that being vaccinated means uninfected,” he said.

Isaac said he practices mitigation practices such as wearing a mask, washing hands and avoiding large public gatherings.

“There are multiple ways to protect the people around you outside of the vaccine,” Isaac said. “I think it’s an option, a better option … if anything.”

“I don’t think getting the vaccine is the only way to take care of other people.”

See Jonathan Isaac’s remarks:

The team’s president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, said not being vaccinated is Isaac’s prerogative, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

“We’re in a very good place regarding the vaccines as a team … and the league balances all this stuff,” Weltman told reporters.

“So Jonathan, if he is going to be an unvaccinated player, will have a more stringent set of protocols as prescribed by the league.
“That’s the way the system is set up and we all kind of adhere to those rules.”

The Sentinel explained that the NBA has not mandated vaccination for players. However, those who are not vaccinated will be tested frequently, with one test on practice and travel days, and at least one test on game days.

Unvaccinated players also must wear masks at team facilities and during travel, and teams must arrange seating for unvaccinated players for travel, meals, meetings and locker-room setups

Fully vaccinated players are not to be seated directly next to an unvaccinated player.

One of Isaac’s teammates, guard Cole Anthony, believes Isaac has a right to choose.

“Look, I mean, JI is a grown man. Any one man who’s willing to stick to his convictions that strongly — I got to support him,” Anthony said, the Sentinel reported. “Look, potentially do I really agree with what he has to say? I might not agree with it; I might agree with it. But look, he’s a grown man. I’m a grown man. He’s gonna do what’s best for him; I’m gonna do what’s best for me.

“At the end of the day we’re teammates, I’m supporting him through thick and thin.”

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