Junk Science Sacks Star Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers misled the public about his vaccination status, but the Green Bay Packers quarterback sidelined with a bout of COVID-19 is more victim than perpetrator.

When reporters asked the 2021 league MVP during an August press conference if he was vaccinated, Rodgers answered in the affirmative, adding a qualifier that wouldn’t raise alarm bells until three months later: “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.”

Rodgers didn’t receive any of the three approved coronavirus vaccines, but he tried to ward off the pandemic by taking what NFL.com described as a “homeopathic treatment from his personal doctor to raise his antibody levels.”

Homeopathy is bald-faced bunkum. The quack discipline is based on the primitive belief that “like cures like,” suggesting patients should take medicines whose side effects mimic the symptoms of their ailments. If that sounds dangerous, don’t worry — homeopathic preparations are diluted until there’s no measurable trace of the active ingredients left.

Samuel Hahnemann, who founded the practice of homeopathy, believed a water or saline solution retained the “dematerialized spiritual force” of the medicine with which it was mixed. It’s the equivalent of adding a thimbleful of bleach to the Atlantic Ocean, stirring vigorously and waiting for the pollution to disappear.

James Randi, a magician and skeptic who debunked paranormal and psuedoscientific claims until his death last year at age 92, once downed a bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills on stage to demonstrate their lack of efficacy. Even over-the-counter sleep aids can be toxic at high doses, but Randi suffered no ill effects. He couldn’t even muster a yawn.

Homeopathic remedies are simply placeboes. Any correlation between their use and health gains can be attributed to the power of positive thinking, the curative properties of time and to sheer coincidence. The snake oil in the bottle isn’t doing anything.

Rodgers hasn’t described his regimen, so it’s unclear whether he took water pills said to contain some infinitesimal dilution of a chemical compound, or if the word “homeopathic” was meant as an umbrella term for alternative medicine. Maybe a cocktail of dietary supplements such as the so-called superfoods hawked on late-night infomercials was what the doctor ordered.

One thing we knew for sure, even before Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, is that his personal treatment was never a viable substitute for a vaccine.

The Packers’ gunslinger sought an exemption from the NFL’s vaccination policy, but officials from the league and players’ union — including a “jointly designated infectious disease consultant” — denied the request, finding that Rodgers couldn’t prove the flimflam provided any virus protection.

Why not just get the shot? Rodgers said he’s allergic to an ingredient in the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. Sportscasters and pundits are now raking him over the coals for his deceptive remark about being “immunized” and for subsequent comments that suggest his hesitancy is rooted in an independent streak as much or more than allergy fears.

In a radio interview on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Rodgers said he’s “in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now” and predicted a final nail being drilled into his “cancel culture casket.”

He compared the pressure on pro football players to reveal their vaccination status to a “witch hunt,” nearly filling listeners’ conservative buzzword bingo cards.

As for treating his coronavirus infection, Rodgers said he took advice from podcast host Joe Rogan, who’s been accused of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. He told McAfee he took ivermectin, a drug whose use as a COVID therapeutic isn’t widely accepted, along with monoclonal antibodies, zinc, vitamin C and the supplement DHCQ.

Rodgers’ resistance to taking the vaccine cost him a nine-year partnership with Prevea Health, but insurance company State Farm issued a Monday statement indicating it hasn’t canceled his endorsement deals.

The talking heads have turned on Rodgers, with pundits calling for all manner of consequences. Yet he’s far from the first high-profile athlete to fall for quackery. If his personal physician really recommended a homeopathic regimen in lieu of a vaccine, why fault Rodgers for following bad advice?

You can make Rodgers the unwitting poster boy for medical misinformation, or you can look past the QB and point the finger of blame at the M.D.s who led him astray.

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