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Some Pelicans players, eligible through Louisiana guidelines, receive vaccine

Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson pick their NBA MVP for the first half of the season, featuring the Nuggets' Nikola Jokić and the 76ers' Joel Embiid.

Several New Orleans Pelicans players and staff members, now eligible under Louisiana state guidelines, have become the first known NBA players to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards expanded eligibility to receive the vaccine in the state to anyone 16 and older who have one of a series of underlying conditions that could lead to serious illness if they came down with COVID-19. For example, people with cancer, heart conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions are eligible in the state.

One of the conditions to get the vaccine is being overweight. As noted by Andrew Lopez at ESPN, for the purposes of getting the vaccine being overweight is defined as having a body mass index of over 25 — a number many NBA players (and other professional athletes) hit, despite them being young and in shape.

Multiple Pelicans players — as well as other team staff — received the vaccine, Lopez reports. The two players we know for sure who got it are Sindarius Thornwell and Nicolo Melli because they Tweeted about it.

The majority of eligible Pelicans players received the vaccine, though not all, ESPN reports. The vaccines were available through the teams’ ongoing relationship with the Ochsner Medical Center.

The Dallas Mavericks are in a similar situation and are awaiting league approval to go forward, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been adamant that NBA players and staff not “jump the line” to get the vaccine, but in this case the Pelicans involved were legally eligible. The Pelicans released this statement:

“On March 9th, the State of Louisiana expanded the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to include people 18 years of age or older (16 years or older for the Pfizer vaccine) who meet certain health criteria that may result in a higher risk of disease. Yesterday, individuals within the New Orleans Pelicans organization who met the state health department’s eligibility requirements received the vaccine.

“The Pelicans support the state’s vital efforts to encourage everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as large-scale vaccination of our community is the best way to keep everyone safe and to end the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about the COVID-19 vaccine can be found at"

“The Pelicans and Ochsner Health will continue to team up to create PSAs and educational programming to raise awareness about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine and to highlight the power of large-scale vaccination in our community in an effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Other NBA players will become eligible in the coming weeks as guidelines for who can get the vaccine open up on a state-by-state basis. The NBA will not (and cannot) mandate players get the vaccine, although players who do get it will not have to sit out games due to contact tracing if exposed, and in the future vaccinated players may have more freedom of off-court activities.

Whether or not to get the vaccine shot is a personal choice for players. Many NBA players are hesitant, reflecting concerns throughout Black communities nationwide (roughly 75% of NBA players are Black). LeBron James spoke for a lot of players when he said he wanted to keep his decision private.