Cubs' Heyward joins Rizzo in revealing he's refused vaccine

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward joined teammate Anthony Rizzo in revealing he has not received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Cubs are one of a small number of MLB teams that have not reached the 85% vaccinated rate, which would allow them to loosen some of the safety protocols that have been in place since last season.

While explaining his decision, Heyward mentioned a couple of factors: He's had an adverse reaction to a flu vaccines in the past and Cubs players are still getting tested three times a week.

"The last time I got the flu shot - I got H1N1 and the regular flu shot - I was out of it for three days and I was younger," Heyward told reporters at Wrigley Field Sunday. "And so for me, my reasoning for not getting the flu shot every year is it's offered to us the same time every year: September, right before October.

"I've been playing on a lot of teams that have a chance of getting to the postseason. The last thing I want to do is feel like (expletive) in September - by choice. All right, if I get the flu, I'm pretty sure I know how to fight it."

Wrigley Field was back to 100% capacity last weekend for the Cubs' three-game sweep of St. Louis. Heyward said he thinks there should be more concern about the fans in the stands than players in the locker room. Vaccinated fans are not required to wear masks, but no one really knows for sure if the stranger seated next to them is vaccinated or not, let alone COVID positive or negative.

"They're worried about us. They need to worry about people coming to the games," Heyward said. "If (stuff) breaks out, and there's a rise in (infections), it ain't going to be because of something we did. We ain't allowed to go around (fans). Could be something that happens because of people here not wearing masks when they're told to please wear your mask."

Heyward's point is Cubs players have built a trust during the past year. No one in the clubhouse should have reason to be concerned a teammate is not taking precautions.

"That's because we had the luxury of being able to not rush that decision, because we get tested more than anyone in the world," he said. "I just feel like it's not something I was prepared to rush any decision on.

"Everyone's situation is different. That's every walk of life, with anything. I don't have kids right now. My wife and I don't have anyone living with us in our home that's older. Most of our family members are vaccinated, so we know we're not endangering them. Also, we're not going around people like that.

"With that being said, with the fact that more people are vaccinated, with the fact we're tested three times a week at least, for us here in the dugout and doing our jobs, that's the last thing we need to be worried about right now."

Since the Cubs are not at the 85% vaccinated level, players and coaches are supposed to wear masks in the dugout and bullpen, according to MLB guidelines. Visual evidence suggests masks are not always being worn.

Cubs team president Jed Hoyer has said players are being encouraged to get the vaccine. Other key players, like Kris Bryant and Ian Happ, among others, have told reporters they chose to get vaccinated.

At the same time, the Cubs have been playing well and there's been no evidence of any rift among players on the two sides of this issue. They were the only team in MLB to not have a player test positive last season. This year, there were a couple of coaches who tested positive in April, but it didn't spread to any players.

"We show up every day knowing we're getting tested, but also go home knowing what's at stake if you go do something stupid," Heyward said. "This is the new normal. You go do something stupid, or you drink and drive, or do something wrong, you're putting the team in jeopardy, you're going to miss time. It's no different with this."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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