The Cleveland Indians are the latest MLB team and North American professional sports franchise to embrace COVID-19 vaccines.
Per Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland manager Terry Francona told reporters ahead of Wednesday's home game versus the Kansas City Royals that half of the team’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel, which includes players and others in the traveling party, received the first of two Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shots at Progressive Field on Tuesday. The remaining members willingly accepting the vaccine will receive shots on Thursday.
Francona explained that personnel was split "for obvious reasons," which presumably include concerns related to both potential COVID-19 spread and common vaccine side effects. MLB previously informed teams that coronavirus-related health and safety regulations can be relaxed if 85% of a team's traveling party gets vaccinated.
"The closer we get to normalcy, not just in baseball but in life, I know that Major League Baseball has made it clear if you get to a certain amount of vaccines there are some restrictions that are relaxed, on the planes, in the clubhouse, on the field," Francona said. "So hopefully as an organization we’ll get to that point and that will make some of what we do, the day-to-day stuff, a lot easier and a lot more fun. So I hope we get there."
Neither Cleveland nor MLB is mandating that personnel receive immunizations to participate in the season.
"That's everybody's personal choice. You can't make somebody do that. That wouldn't be right," Francona added. "I hope we get to a certain amount, though, where we are able as a team to relax some of the restrictions. That would be helpful.
"And our people do a good job of explaining things to the players so they can make an informed decision."
Francona is 61 years old and has a lengthy history of health issues, so he was able to receive both vaccine doses in Arizona before the team completed spring training activities.
The New York Mets underwent a COVID-19 vaccine education course on Tuesday ahead of Thursday's planned vaccinations at Citi Field after Mets team president Sandy Alderson said on Monday that some New York players were showing "hesitation" toward receiving the shots. It's unknown if either the Mets or Cleveland will hit the 85% mark this month.