Report: NBA will force certain fully vaccinated players to submit to testing if they don't get booster shot

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Who could have predicted it? The NBA announced Sunday new COVID-19 testing requirements for certain fully vaccinated players, effectively moving the goalposts yet again.

What is the background?

While the NBA does not require COVID-19 vaccination for players, the league has implemented stringent rules for unvaccinated players that go beyond the locker room.

Those rules include:

  • No dining with team members or other team personnel
  • Have a locker as far away from other team members as possible
  • Submit to daily testing when using team facilities
  • Submit to laboratory testing on game day
  • Maintain 6 feet of social distancing

ESPN additionally reported:

Unvaccinated players are required to remain at their residence during home games and at the team hotel for road contests. The only exceptions are for team and essential activities, such as buying groceries or taking their children to school. They are not allowed to go to any restaurants, bars, clubs, entertainment venues or large indoor gatherings, and can only have in-person interactions with non-family members with a “limited number of close personal guests” who have to be tested beforehand.

Meanwhile, vaccinated players are permitted to live normally, with the exception of wearing face masks inside team facilities.

What is happening now?

The NBA is recommending that players, coaches, staff, and referees obtain a COVID-19 booster shot if they were inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID vaccine.

Although the league billed the development as a recommendation, players who received the J&J vaccine will be subjected to game-day testing if they do not receive a booster shot by Dec. 1.

“NBA informed teams today that all players who received the J&J vaccine at least two months ago will be subject to Game Day testing beginning Dec. 1 if they do not receive the additional booster shot,” Shams Charania of the Athletic reported.


While the NBA also recommended that recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines get a booster shot, the league's justification for implementing testing on booster-less J&J recipients indicates the NBA may extend testing requirements to booster-less Pfizer and Moderna recipients in the coming months.

That is because, per the Associated Press' reporting, the NBA based its booster requirement on data allegedly showing J&J antibody levels decrease two months after inoculation, and after six months for recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Up to 97% of NBA players are believed to be fully vaccinated, the AP reported.

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