Israeli Experts Debunk Aaron Rodgers’ Anti-vaccine Claims

Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers falsely cited an Israeli study to argue that recovered COVID patients shouldn't get vaccinated. Israeli experts stress in reply the importance of vaccinations, even after recovery from the virus

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Aaron Rodgers

Two days after announcing that he had contracted COVID-19, all-star quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Friday appeared on a talk show, falsely claiming that an Israeli study had proven that recovery from actual infection with the coronavirus provides the “best immunity possible” against the disease which has killed more than 775,000 Americans and more than 5 million people worldwide.

Appearing on “The Pat McAfee Show” via ZOOM, Rodgers also took the opportunity to endorse several disproven alternative treatments, including the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin.

Rodgers, 37, said he wasn’t vaccinated but had “immunized” himself against the virus by following alternate therapies. He said he was not anti-vaccination in general but that it wasn’t the right decision for him, citing what he said was an Israeli study proving that recovery provided better immunity than vaccination.

“I’m gonna have the best immunity possible now, based on the 2.5-million-person study from Israel that people who get Covid and recover have the most robust immunity,” Rogers said.

Aaron Rodgers on Pat McAfee showCredit: YouTube

It remains unclear what study the Green Bay Packers star was referring to, and he didn’t elaborate. One study conducted by Clalit, Israel’s largest health care provider, included more than 2 million participants, but what it found was that the highest level of immunity was in people who had recovered from Covid and who had also received at least one shot of a vaccine against the virus.

Prof. Ran Balicer, the director of health policy planning at Clalit who led this specific research, explained following Rodgers’ appearance, “It is true that recovering from Covid creates a strong immune response, although it doesn’t last forever, it wanes with time. But the more important thing is that in order to have it, you first need to get sick and survive with no harm.”

While experts in Israel generally agree that recovery provides good protection against COVID, especially against severe illness, most assert that a single vaccine dose significatly increases one's level of protection.

Prof. Eyal Leshem, director of the Center for Travel Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, told Haaretz that over time, people who were sick with COVID, recovered, and did not get vaccinated, will experience a decline in protection.

“The bottom line is that the best protection is provided by a boosted vaccine, or by a combination of vaccination and recovery,” he explained. “We know that the vaccine is safe and effective and the recommendation is to get vaccinated,” Leshem added.

In Israel, the unvaccinated are less than 15% of the eligible population, but are almost 80% of the severe COVID patients Credit: Hadas Parush

It is true that recovering from Covid gives you immunity, confirms Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at Ben-Gurion University, who is also head of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians. But much depends on the viral load to which one was exposed and other personal factors, he stresses.

Studies in Israel show that the best outcome is one dose of vaccine after recovery from the coronavirus, he says. But in any case research continues. 

Last week, Israeli health officials told the Ynet news website that currently in Israel, almost 80% of the severe COVID patients are unvaccinated – this, despite the fact that the unvaccinated are less than 15% of the population eligible for vaccination. 

Meanwhile, on Saturday Prevea Health, a Wisconsin health care organization, terminated its 9-year relationship with Rodgers effective immediately following the football star's remarks. 

Amir Tibon and Reuters contributed to this report.