As a cheesehead from Wisconsin, I wasn’t happy to hear the news that star Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will not play Sunday because he tested positive for Covid-19. I was even unhappier when I learned that he’ll be out in part because of how he reportedly tried to protect himself from the virus.
Instead of getting vaccinated, according to NFL.com, he received a homeopathic treatment from his doctor and then asked the NFL to count that as being vaccinated. The league did not, and for good reason — because homeopathy has never been shown to work.
On Friday, Rodgers took on the criticism of his decision not to get vaccinated. “The opportunity to do this homeopathic stuff came up,” he told “The Pat McAfee Show” after claiming he had an allergy to the Covid mRNA vaccines. “The specific protocol I’m just going to keep between my doctors and myself, but it was a way to stimulate my immune system to create a defense against Covid.”
But the principles behind homeopathy, a medical system developed more than 200 years ago in Germany, are flawed: “like cures like” and the “law of minimum dose.” The concept behind “like cures like” is that if people are exposed to substances that cause symptoms of disease, this will cure people of diseases that produce the same symptoms. If your problem is an itchy rash, then perhaps you should try a treatment containing poison ivy. If you’ve got diarrhea, perhaps try some five-alarm chili.
The “law of minimum dose” is the idea of “less is more” carried to the extreme — that the most effective medicines are those of the lowest possible doses. Ingredients are repeatedly diluted until they are present in extremely small quantities. These quantities are so small, that sometimes there isn’t even a single molecule of what is supposed to be curing the ailment present. Applying the “law of minimum dose” to a splitting headache, instead of swallowing a normal aspirin pill, you’d grind it up into powder and eat a crumb so small an ant would ignore it.
It’s true that medical treatments can sometimes be counterintuitive. A person who hasn’t eaten in several days can actually die from eating too much too quickly, for instance, because of changes in metabolism and hormones. So it’s actually recommended to initially limit food intake to 50 percent of a person’s energy requirements.
But we know this is true in cases of undereating because we have evidence that this treatment is safe and effective. Homeopathy does not have that evidence. A review of more than 1,800 scientific papers on homeopathy found that homeopathic treatments don’t cure diseases.
And the National Institutes of Health don’t mince words when it comes to homeopathic “inoculations” like the one Rodgers reportedly received: “No evidence to support homeopathic immunizations.” None. Nada. Zilch.
But these bogus treatments can cause real harm. One study found that cancer patients who used homeopathy or other alternative therapies were twice as likely to die because many of them refused established medical treatments that actually work. In Australia, two parents tried to treat their 9-month-old daughter’s eczema, a skin disease, with homeopathy. It didn’t work. Their daughter died from a condition that generally isn’t life-threatening, and the parents were sent to prison for manslaughter.
Sometimes, the homeopathic treatments themselves can be dangerous. One homeopathic therapy supposed to help teething babies was found to have dangerous levels of a toxic and hallucinogenic extract from the deadly nightshade plant.
In Rodgers’ case, in addition to putting himself and anyone he might have come into contact with at risk of exposure (he hadn’t been following the normal NFL protocols for unvaccinated players), the QB is also letting down everyone hoping for a Green Bay win Sunday. Had Rodgers been vaccinated and contracted asymptomatic Covid, under NFL policies he would only need to test negative twice before returning to the field. But now he must miss at least 10 days whether or not he has symptoms, meaning that he will miss Sunday’s game and at the earliest return just in time to play the Seahawks next week.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones said that Rodgers’ vaccine refusal wasn’t selfish and merely a personal decision. But if it really was just personal, the Packers wouldn’t be stuck with a quarterback who has never started a regular season game facing off against the reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs (in Kansas City, no less).
Other players get that. The league’s vaccination rate is higher than the nation’s, with Rodgers among the less than 6 percent of NFL players who remain unvaccinated. Last season, he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the third time in his career, but he can’t make any clutch plays while he’s in isolation. Rodgers let his teammates down, and he let Packers fans down.
A player who can’t take part in an NFL game because of Covid is a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. But all of us are in big trouble if we’re short-handed on nurses, police, firefighters and many other essential workers. And everyone is on at least one team of some sort, whether as part of their job, their education or their recreation, and it’s up to all of us not to let our teams down. One of the easiest ways to make sure we don’t is for people to get vaccinated (for real) against the coronavirus.