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Sports Magic Johnson on taking COVID-19 vaccine, Lakers’ players comfort level & attending games

05:20  22 april  2021
05:20  22 april  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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When he reconnected with his former colleague, Magic Johnson did not just discuss the state of the Los Angeles Lakers with general manager Rob Pelinka. The two also talked about Johnson recently taking the COVID-19 vaccine, and how that could do more than just protect himself from the virus.

a group of people sitting in a chair talking on a cell phone: Magic Johnson (left) gives a thumbs-up after getting a vaccine last month, as a part of a vaccination awareness event at USC, in Los Angeles. © Gina Ferazzi, AP Magic Johnson (left) gives a thumbs-up after getting a vaccine last month, as a part of a vaccination awareness event at USC, in Los Angeles.

“Rob told me a lot of guys, that when I got mine, they felt a little bit better,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “That’s what happens. Guys want to see other guys [get it], and see if it works. They follow that, hopefully.”

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Lakers controlling governor Jeanie Buss and Lakers forward Montrezl Harrell posted recently on their respective social media accounts that they received the COVID-19 vaccine. But it is not clear how many other players have taken it, including LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Nonetheless, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Wednesday the organization has yet to become 85 percent vaccinated.

Once NBA teams reach that threshold, the league’s health and safety protocols allows them to visit their practice facility without masks as well as eat meals on the team plane. Individual vaccinated players have additional freedoms, including outdoor dining, inviting friends and family at home and on the road without testing and not needing to quarantine after potential exposure.

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So when Johnson talked last week with Buss, Pelinka and Linda Rambis (the Lakers’ executive director of community relations & special projects), he learned some encouraging news about the players’ comfort level with the COVID-19 vaccine.

“They had discussions with the players. I think they had decided --  most of them -- to take it and to get vaccinated,” Johnson said. “They just have to find out when. At that time, they had not done that. So I don’t know when they’re going to do it. But I think once a leader like a team in the Lakers and a leader like LeBron step up, guys will feel more comfortable. But it’s all about getting the information.”

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have not required players to take the COVID-19 vaccine. They are also aware that some of the predominantly Black players have some distrust stemming from the fallout of the unethical Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted from 1932 to 1972.

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But the NBA has hosted vaccine education sessions for the league’s current and former players, staff members and families that has included Dr. Leroy Sims, the NBA’s senior vice president of medical affairs. The NBA also released four PSA’s about the COVID-19 vaccine that featured five former Black NBA players (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Dave Bing, Wayne Embry), a white head coach (San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich) and a white NBA executive (Jerry West).

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Johnson is not yet among the NBA luminaries that have recorded a PSA, but he has also been vocally supportive of the COVID-19 vaccine on his social media channels.

“Tremendous impact. It’s not just impact on the players of today, but also in the Black community,” Johnson said. “These are men who have been leaders not just on the basketball court, but in the community as well. When they step up and take it, there’s a comfort level for other people. That’s what they bring. We look to people who look like us and who we trust.”

In what he considered “probably the most important question,” Johnson also researched whether he would become compromised since he has had HIV for nearly 30 years. So Johnson contacted Dr. David Ho, who has been Johnson’s physician, one of the preeminent doctors in the AIDS research community and among the medical experts the NBA consulted when formulizing its health and safety protocols.

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“Dr. Ho told me no problems. He encouraged me to take it,” Johnson said. “When you got two of the leading infectious doctors that know about all of the diseases in Dr. Fauci and Dr. Ho, you step on up and you do it.”

So, Johnson received his first shot of the Pfizer vaccine on March 24 at University of Southern California’s mass vaccination site. Johnson received his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine on April 13. How has his body reacted since then?

“No reaction,” Johnson said. “That has been great. Just a sore arm. I’ve been so happy.”

After all, Johnson said his wife (Cookie), three children (Andre, EJ, Elisa), parents, in-laws and siblings have also received at least one COVID-19 shot. Johnson has since attended the Dodgers’ season opener and has plans to attend future Dodgers, Lakers, LAFC and Sparks games.

“I’m going. Are you kidding me?” Johnson said with joy about attending Lakers’ games. “You’re getting AD and LeBron back, and the playoffs are right here. I want to get back toward enjoying what I used to do, and the normal lifestyle that I used to have. We’re not going to be all the way back. But at least I can go.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Magic Johnson on taking COVID-19 vaccine, Lakers’ players comfort level & attending games

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