Randy Smith: Low Vaccination Rates Could Hinder SEC Football

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Well, here we are once again. Getting ready for the college football season, which is six weeks away and covid cases are ramping up all around the country, especially in the south. In Tennessee alone less than 40% of the population has chosen to be fully vaccinated. This is not a scenario where the state is coming up short of vaccine. It's a scenario of citizens choosing not to take the shots that are offered, free of charge. The new Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious is firing up in all sections of America with Tennessee being considered a "hot spot."

Altogether, more than 600,000 Americans have died from Covid. In Tennessee, more than 12,000 people have died in a year and a half.
What justification could possibly be found for citizens refusing to take the vaccination? As someone who was fully vaccinated back in March, I can't think of any rational reasons for refusing to take the vaccine. None. Some say it's political. Others are so enthralled in conspiracy theories they see no reason whatsoever to be vaccinated, while others claim they don't fear the virus at all. I fear it. I have lost nine close friends or acquaintances from covid. Two members of my family contacted the virus but neither had to be hospitalized, though one has still not completely gained back his ability to taste or smell. 

Around the Southeastern Conference, vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country, yet in six weeks huge stadiums will open with more than a half-million fans in attendance. Only 40% or less will be vaccinated, and of those a clear majority will also refuse to wear masks. We could be looking at another phase of the pandemic, as bad or worse than we had a year ago. This new variant and other new variants that could soon be spread threatens SEC football greatly. But forget about football for a moment. It will also threaten the  lives of teachers, construction workers, insurance salespeople, fast food workers and many others. All because close to 60% of our population is too selfish or misinformed to get the vaccine.    

Last year, I chose not to make my usual SEC predictions because I wasn't sure if the season would even be completed. It was completed but with 25% or less of the stadiums capacity in attendance. I felt all along that the season shouldn't have been played at all and I still stand by that theory. Now, with covid rearing its ugly head once again and threatening another college football season, I find myself having second thoughts about the 2021 campaign. 

At the SEC Media Days this week, Commissioner Greg Sankey stated that six of the league's 14 schools have reached a vaccination rate of 80%. He also stated that when schools have a coronavirus outbreak, they could forfeit rather than have their games rescheduled like last year. That's the right thing to do and I applaud the Commissioner's stance. If the other eight SEC schools can reach that 80% vaccination rate I would feel much better about the season. 

Now we only need the fans who plan to attend SEC games this fall to get their shots as well. I'm not optimistic about that at all because it appears they'll drink the kool-aid but refuse to be vaccinated and that is absolutely shameful.  

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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