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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the latest attempt to encourage players to get vaccinated, the NFL is threatening forfeits and the loss of game checks if an outbreak occurs.

Driving the news: If a game can't be played due to an outbreak among unvaccinated players/staff this upcoming season — and the NFL can't find "a suitable date to reschedule" — the team responsible will forfeit and both teams will lose their game checks.

  • The NFL was able to reschedule all of the games it postponed in 2020, but it seems the league might not be willing to go to the same extremes — like playing on a Tuesday — this time around.
  • If a forfeit occurs, the forfeiting team will be responsible for any shortfall in the league's revenue-sharing pool, and will also be subject to additional sanctions from the commissioner.

Where it stands: As of Thursday, more than 75% of NFL players were at least partially vaccinated and more than half of the league's teams have player vaccination rates above 80%.

  • The NFL effectively mandated vaccinations for coaches, trainers and support staff in April, saying they should all be vaccinated "unless they have a bona fide medical or religious ground for not doing so."
  • Unvaccinated players were already going to be tested daily and not permitted to leave team hotels or eat with their teammates. Now, they could be responsible for the losses of games and paychecks.

The bottom line: The NFL can't force players to get vaccinated, so it's doing the next best thing in an attempt to avoid outbreaks: making the lives of unvaccinated players very uncomfortable.

Go deeper

23 hours ago - Health

1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and U.S. Census Bureau; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The U.S. has reached a grim pandemic milestone: More than 1 in 500 Americans has died of COVID-19, according to the latest available data.

Why it matters: The rising death toll highlights the continued effects of the Delta variant and the ongoing struggle to get Americans vaccinated.

By the numbers: The total number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the United States is 665,496 as of 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to reporting by Johns Hopkins University.

  • 30.1% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. involved individuals ages 85 and older as of Wednesday, despite only making up 2% of cases and an equal portion of the population.
Sep 15, 2021 - World

EU pledges 200 million vaccine doses to Africa, low-income nations

Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the bloc would donate an additional 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Africa and low-income nations, AP reports.

Why it matters: The new donation, slated to be delivered by the middle of next year, comes as confirmed cases of the coronavirus have reached 225 million globally.

Sep 15, 2021 - Health

Pfizer says data suggests COVID vaccine boosters are warranted

A nurse administering a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 19 in Pasadena, Calif. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer told the FDA Wednesday that data from its clinical trials suggests a third shot of its coronavirus vaccine may be necessary six months after the second dose because of waning efficacy.

Why it matters: The FDA's advisory committee on Friday is expected to review Pfizer's clinical trials and other supporting and conflicting data on coronavirus booster shots and make recommendations on whether more Americans 16 years and older should receive an extra dose.