VOORHEES, N.J. (CBS/AP) -- Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Friday he's already been vaccinated against COVID-19. Vigneault also said he believes everyone on the Flyers' staff and their players who have wanted a vaccine have been vaccinated.
"My personal recommendation would be for everyone to get their vaccine," Vigneault said Friday during a virtual press conference with reporters. "I've already had both my vaccines, and I'm pretty sure our whole staff that has wanted a vaccine has gotten their shots. And player-wise, I believe it's the same thing."
"The availability is there," Vigneault added. "Our guys right now have followed what they're supposed to follow and everyone I believe that has wanted a vaccine so far has gotten a vaccine."
A COVID-19 outbreak that began on Super Bowl Sunday forced the Flyers to postpone four games and go 10 days between games, leading to a compact March schedule that saw them play 17 games in 31 days.
On Wednesday, the New York Rangers gave their players, coaches, and staff off so they could get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of its 31 teams are based in Canada. While the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball are relaxing virus protocols when a certain percentage of each team is fully vaccinated, the top hockey league in the world is facing a severe outbreak with the Vancouver Canucks and grappling with vaccine inequity on opposite sides of the border.
Canada has lagged in vaccinations because, like many other countries, it lacks the ability to manufacture vaccines and has had to rely on the global supply chain. While hope is on the way with 45 million doses expected to be available by July for the nation of 38 million people, cases in Canada are surging, and the NHL is not immune.
The Canucks reported 21 players and four staff members tested positive for the virus and another is considered a close contact. Team physician Jim Bovard called the outbreak "a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes."
The NHL got around the U.S.-Canada border being closed to nonessential travel by making this 56-game season divisional play only, with the seven Canadian teams only facing each other.
And because of that split, hockey has mirrored the evolving virus situations in the U.S. and Canada. From Jan. 13-March 31, players on Canadian teams accounted for just 103 of the 1,361 appearances on the NHL COVID protocol list -- with just one of a season-high 59 players Feb. 12.
Since April 1, players on Canadian teams have accounted for 138 of 160 instances, including 23 of 25 Thursday.
As of Thursday, over a third of the U.S. general population had received at least one dose and 19.9% was fully vaccinated, compared to 16.5% with one shot and 1.98% fully vaccinated in Canada.
In Philadelphia, as of Friday, 26.1% of its residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 15.7% have been fully vaccinated.
The Associated Press asked all 31 NHL teams how many players, coaches and staff had been partially or fully vaccinated and if any had refused a vaccine, and none would provide specific details. Among the responses, the Tampa Bay Lightning said some players and staff had been vaccinated, the Rangers said many were getting a shot, the Detroit Red Wings said a majority and the Columbus Blue Jackets a vast majority of players and coaches had received at least one dose.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is "monitoring, but (the) vaccination process is very much team by team and market by market."
Along with the league, the Players' Association sent a memo to members and is working to educate them and answer questions about vaccination, which is being handled by individual teams.
With President Joe Biden setting an April 19 deadline for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to open up vaccine eligibility to everyone age 16 and up, the NFL, NBA and MLB -- with all teams currently playing in the U.S. -- instituted incentives that relax masking and other protocols based on a certain level of personnel being fully vaccinated. Memos were sent to players and teams last week reminding them to adhere to protocols -- even if fully vaccinated.
The Flyers face off against the Boston Bruins at Wells Fargo Center at 2 p.m. Saturday.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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