The state Department of Health Services held a news conference Wednesday to announce COVID-19 vaccine availability for kids ages 5 to 11 but reporters quickly turned the conversation to the news surrounding Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers quarterback has tested positive for COVID-19 and is unvaccinated. Rodgers was asked on Aug. 26 if he was vaccinated and told reporters, “yeah, I’ve been immunized.”

Reporters pressed the state on whether or not the high-profile quarterback’s vaccination status would hurt their push to get more people vaccinated.

“Can’t comment on individual people’s health decisions, I don’t know anything about that,” said Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer with the department. “Our message that we want to send is that vaccines are safe and effective, and we recommend them for everybody regardless of your job, your position or, increasingly, your age.

“It’s a clear and consistent message for us, we know that not everyone has been vaccinated, our job in public health is to try to communicate clearly as we can about the risks and benefits and our conclusion, based on good science, that benefits far outweigh the risks and that translates to strong recommendations to get vaccinated for everyone.”

Westergaard was asked his thoughts on a report by ESPN that Rodgers petitioned the NFL to equate “alternative treatments” with having a fully vaccinated status. Sources told ESPN that petition was denied.

“The evidence-based strategies for developing a protective immune response, what we consider quality medical evidence for, are vaccines. Period,” said Westergaard.

“It’s also true that people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that protects them. But, I do not recommend that as a strategy for protecting yourself. …We do not recommend anyone go out and get infected. … Vaccination is really our only immune system-based (strategy) that we have good evidence for.”

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Ben Weston, chief health policy adviser for Milwaukee County, reiterated that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“What we have learned after over a year of experience with hundreds of millions of vaccines administered is that no matter who you are, the vaccine makes you less likely to get infected, less likely to need to quarantine, and less likely to suffer long-term effects from COVID illness,” Weston said.

“Equally important, the vaccine can reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. Getting vaccinated protects you, your family, and your community. As always, I hope for a speedy and full recovery,”

At a minimum, Rodgers will miss Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @DrakeBentleyMJS.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Health officials react to Aaron Rodgers being unvaccinated, COVID news

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