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Danny Ainge says ‘at least a couple’ Celtics players won’t want the COVID-19 vaccine

Danny Ainge said he knows a few players won't get the vaccine.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

According to Celtics president of basketball Danny Ainge, not everyone on the roster will want to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes fully available to the public.

“I’ve talked to a handful,” Ainge said on Thursday, speaking to 98.5′s Toucher & Rich. “Most of them are getting it, yes, eventually in the next couple of weeks here. But yeah, I think there will be at least a couple that don’t want to get it.”

Ainge also said he has received Pfizer’s version of the vaccine.

The Celtics have been one of the teams hardest hit by the virus. Marcus Smart was one of the first players in the league to test positive. Early this season, they had three games postponed due to health and safety protocols. Jayson Tatum missed time and has talked about how his lungs don’t feel the same since he returned. Most recently, both Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson have missed significant time. Romeo Langford has finally cleared protocols and is expected to be back in the Celtics lineup as soon as Friday against the Houston Rockets. According to Ainge, Thompson should be back soon as well.

On Thursday, the team released a lengthy conversation through its social justice initiative Celtics United featuring Grant Williams, Tacko Fall, Cedric Maxwell, NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin and local doctors Charles Anderson, president of The Dimock Center in Boston and Dr. Joseph Betancourt, senior vice president of equity and community health at Massachusetts General Hospital. The conversation, according to the team, is intended to help with “understandable, longstanding mistrust” of the medical system in the Black community.


In the conversation, Anderson and Betancourt address the mistrust, discussing events like the Tuskegee syphilis study in which more than 600 Black men with syphilis were denied care for their condition as doctors observed the natural history of untreated syphilis. As Maxwell noted, events like Tuskegee have been ingrained into the memories of the Black community and give many people pause when they consider whether to get the COVID vaccine.


“Here’s the thing about it: We hear those stories through our grandparents,” Anderson said. “Our grandparents who because they know of this and lived through that, tell us as we’re growing up ‘You know what? You can’t trust doctors. They are just going to experiment on you. Be careful.’ And when you hear enough of that, it echoes in your head for most of your life, and then things happen every day that reinforce that.”

Still, both Anderson and Betancourt were unequivocal advocates of the vaccine. They discussed how the vaccine was produced, noting the extensive, diverse trials and the efficacy.

“Look around and see who is running to get the vaccine,” Betancourt said.

Both Williams and Fall noted that they have heard vaccine skepticism in their circles. Williams said his mother Teresa Johnson — an engineer who has worked for NASA for 30 years — grew up telling him to tough out illnesses.

“When it comes to healthcare, I have relatives who work in the industry,” Williams said. “They say they see the mistreatment every day. … That’s something that I think makes a lot of our community hesitant to go.”

Fall added that growing up in his home nation of Senegal, most people believe in more traditional methods. Now that he lives in the United States, he knows “a lot of people” who aren’t going to take the vaccine.


“It’s all about trust,” Fall said. “Find a way to convey that.”

Williams said he initially was skeptical, but that the doctors on the panel helped him build confidence in the vaccine.

“I feel like [it’s] something that not just the black and brown community should partake in, but everybody in the world,” he said. “Just really use it as that tool to hopefully get us back to where we can see other people smile, other people laugh — really show that expression of love to one another that maybe we haven’t had for the last year and a half.”