SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 7: San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler watches the game from the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
It’s unclear if Major League Baseball will require players, coaches and staff members to receive COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to be widely available to the general public by the middle of 2021, but San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler is among those who plan to get vaccinated anyway.
“I will get vaccinated but that is a personal choice,” Kapler said in a videoconference with reporters Tuesday. “At least right now, for me. I will be open to having conversations with our players and talking about anything they want to talk about.”
Kapler understands there could be skepticism among the players he manages with regard to receiving a new vaccine, but said he’s followed the vaccine development and approval process closely and is encouraged by what’s he’s learned.
“I believe in the science of the vaccine, I believe the FDA has approved the vaccine for a reason and that reason is extensive study,” Kapler said. “That’s why I will absolutely take the vaccine and at the same time, I will be sensitive to the concerns and the want to be educated of our players.”
The Giants manager also expressed optimism about MLB holding a full 162-game season Tuesday, but multiple sources within the Giants organization have expressed uncertainty about the possibility in recent weeks. MLB has not given clear guidance on when players can report to spring training and recent reports indicate the league is considering bargaining with the Players Association to delay the start of the 2021 season.
A delay may provide time for players to receive vaccines sometime in the spring without skipping ahead of essential workers and people with underlying health issues in the process, but it would also allow for a larger portion of the population to be vaccinated.
After MLB teams played 60-game seasons in front of empty stadiums in 2020, owners want to be able to sell tickets to games in 2021. If MLB proceeds with its current schedule, it’s possible teams would have to play a significant amount of games with no fans in the stands or have reduced capacities in their stadiums with strict physical distancing and cleaning protocols depending on local jurisdictions.
The Giants have been working closely with local health officials in San Francisco throughout the pandemic to create and implement safety protocols when Oracle Park does reopen to the general public. The team is not expected to release details about potential protocols until much closer to the Giants’ first home game, which is tentatively scheduled for April 8 and could be pushed back if the league delays the season.
In interviews in recent days, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s senior official for infectious diseases, has expressed hope the United States could achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by the summer. Reaching herd immunity is expected to lead to fewer restrictions, but it remains uncertain if MLB teams will be able to fill stadiums by the end of the 2021 season.