As public health officials race to vaccinate millions of Americans against COVID-19, demand has grown so much that some states are running out of space to administer doses. The NFL this week suggested a way to perhaps solve that problem: Use team stadiums to host thousands of people waiting in line for a vaccine.
“We have encouraged clubs to contact their state and local health departments to offer stadiums and practice facilities, if practical, to serve as sites for vaccinating the general public,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday. “These will be decisions between the clubs and their local officials based on need, location and availability.”
Using sports arenas for vaccinations isn’t a completely novel idea. The University of Michigan’s Big House, the nation’s largest college football stadium, became a vaccine site last month and can now administer up to 2,000 vaccines a day. Former hockey stadium Broadbent Arena in Kentucky is another vaccination location.
Fenway Park in Massachusetts, home of the Boston Red Sox, is expected to be a vaccination site. The state’s firefighters’ union chief said Gillette Stadium, home field for the New England Patriots, could also become a vaccination site. Hard Rock Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins play, is expected to be another vaccine center, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Florida is experiencing some of the biggest vaccination space crunches. The state is in such dire need that health officials are looking into converting churches and former COVID-19 testing sites into vaccination centers, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.
Until now, NFL players and team staff have received COVID-19 testing at stadiums and practice facilities. For many teams, opening the stadium to outsiders would mark the first time the public has been around in months.
Most stadiums have been closed to fans during the pandemic — including in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. Teams that are welcoming fans — Denver and Houston — are doing so at limited capacity.
The NFL would benefit from more Americans being vaccinated because that increases the likelihood of state officials fully re-opening stadiums. For now, stadiums being closed off means teams are losing out on ticket sales, concession stand purchases, merchandise receipts and other revenue generators, such as in-stadium advertising signage.
Almost 5 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. President-elect Joe Biden said during a speech on the coronavirus that his transition team will tackle vaccine distribution in part by setting up vaccination sites and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach communities.