Vaccine mandate for minor-league baseball players scrapped as MLB reverses course

Major League Baseball will not require minor-league players to be vaccinated in the upcoming season, a reversal from plans originally reported by Yahoo Sports in October.

Since then, vaccine mandates have come under legal fire across the country. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court blocked a rule introduced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that would have required large companies to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for workers. In response, OSHA withdrew the rule, leaving employers “subject to a patchwork of state and local laws on COVID-19 workplace safety, with places like New York City requiring vaccine mandates and other governments banning them,” as the New York Times wrote.

The legal complications that have arisen around vaccine mandates were among many considerations for the league in changing course. MLB conferred with medical experts, outside counsel and the other sports leagues before issuing a memo Thursday.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 08: Christian Santos receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Guaranteed Rate Field before the start of the Chicago White Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 08, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Fans who received the vaccine were offered two free tickets to the game or received a voucher good for two tickets to a future game. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Many MLB parks offered promotions for free or discounted tickets for those who got the vaccine in 2021. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Minor-league coaches and staff who have close access to the players are required to get vaccinated, unless granted an exemption.

MLB provided the following statement to Yahoo Sports:

“Our expert consultants have advised that fully up-to-date vaccination of all on-field staff and others with close player contact provides a safer environment in which to prevent infection and transmission. Reasonable accommodations will be considered for staff members who receive an exemption to this requirement. Such exemptions will be considered on an individual basis and in accordance with state law. We continue to strongly encourage vaccination among Minor League players and make resources available to Minor League teams and players toward that goal.”

Even with MLB and the MLB Players Association still in a lockout that could keep the major-league season in limbo, the minor-league season will proceed as scheduled.