No, Charles Barkley, Athletes Aren’t More Deserving of the Vaccine Than Anyone Else

Elite athletes should not be prioritized for the vaccine

Philadelphia 76ers Unveil Charles Barkley Sculpture
Charles Barkley poses for a picture with his sculpture at the Philadelphia 76ers training facility in Camden, New Jersey.
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

“As much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment.” That was what Charles Barkley had to say on the subject of NBA players — and professional athletes as a whole — being able to get COVID-19 vaccinations ahead of schedule. His remarks came on Thursday night’s Inside the NBA, as Mike Rosenstein reports for

While Barkley making a controversial statement isn’t exactly shocking at this point in time, it is worth mentioning that he isn’t the only one who’s made this argument. International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound also argued recently that athletes should be among the first vaccinated. “[T]o take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level — I don’t think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that,” Pound said earlier this month.

The debate over whether or not athletes should be among the first to be vaccinated is unlikely to go away any time soon. But there are also a number of good reasons why athletes should not get special treatment. Late last year, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine to certain groups of people first, including health care workers and people who are high risk. An elite or professional athlete is, by definition, going to be in peak physical condition and have access to more medical resources than your average person — all of which makes them far removed from “high risk.”

Professional sports teams also have access to more resources than the general population, including the ability to do widespread testing. While this system isn’t perfect, it has allowed the resumption of sports around the globe. The CDC’s own recommendations for vaccine distribution emphasize “[decreasing] death and serious disease as much as possible.” It’s hard to argue that prioritizing a young, physically fit athlete over someone twice their age with chronic heath problems would do that. Is it a perfect solution? No — but given the severity of the pandemic, a perfect solution was never in the cards.

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