U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

12/03/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/03/2021 14:23

WNBPA Wins Big with a Player-led COVID-19 Vaccination Approach

The WNBPA's strategy focuses on helping players make informed vaccination decisions by providing education from multiple trusted experts in a welcoming and open environment. "When we first started out, the goal was to get the players information from the experts," said Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) and lead on the COVID-19 vaccination effort.

Understanding COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Concerns through Teammates' Conversations

The WNBPA's COVID-19 vaccine strategy was directed by strong player leadership ─ including that of Elizabeth Williams, center-forward for the Atlanta Dream and secretary of the WNBPA. Williams is the daughter of a doctor and nurse who plans to attend medical school after her WNBA career. She was reading vaccine research as early as September 2020, which left her with numerous questions. Knowing she wasn't the only one with questions, she insisted that the WNBPA hold information sessions with players as soon as possible before misinformation on social media had a chance to take hold. Jackson agreed to schedule a series of Zoom sessions with medical and scientific experts, while WNBPA player representatives ("reps") led the informal research effort to identify their teammates' vaccine questions and concerns.

Creating a Safe Space to Talk to Trusted Experts

The WNBPA held three Zoom sessions from January to March 2021 and recorded and shared the sessions for players to watch later. They also created a dozen clips from the sessions to ease sharing. Sessions were held in various time zones to enable those playing overseas to join. Players had their cameras on, were engaged, and actively participated throughout each session. Any question was fair game.

In preparation for the Zoom sessions, the WNBPA created a spreadsheet for player reps to capture their teammates' questions. From October to November 2020, they called up their teammates across the globe to collect their questions and concerns about the vaccines through informal conversations.

Through these conversations, the player reps collected nearly 60 unique questions ranging from whether the vaccines would impact their fertility (it won't) to whether the vaccines would change their DNA (they don't). Jackson shared the spreadsheet with the Zoom panelists before the sessions so they could understand the players' concerns and address their questions.

"As for the panelists, we searched for epidemiologists, someone connected to the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, obstetricians, mental health specialists, and those with an understanding of Black and Brown communities' historical mistrust in the medical community. We tried to cover all the bases and address how the pandemic was impacting our communities," said Jackson.