Major League Baseball issued a memo to teams on Thursday indicating that minor-league players will not be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccination ahead of the 2022 season, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. Other on-field personnel, including managers and coaches, will need to be "up to date" with their vaccinations in order to have direct contact with said players, however.
In a follow-up tweet, Passan provided a statement from a league official noting that "reasonable accommodations" for exemptions could and would be made on an individual basis, based on state law. Those exemption requests may entail "bona fide" religious and medical reasons.
Currently unvaccinated staff can get a shot before the start of minor league spring training. Staff can avoid being vaccinated via “only bona fide religious and medical exemption requests.”— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 27, 2022
I reached out to the league for comment, and a spokesman provided this statement. pic.twitter.com/dDS2xLVP7w
It's unclear why MLB opted against mandating vaccinations for all minor-league personnel. The league was reportedly close to enacting a policy that would've mandated all minor-league players receive the COVID-19 vaccination back in October. It's also unclear if vaccinations will be mandatory for big-league players as part of the next collective bargaining agreement (though one would suspect not, based on the precedent MLB is setting on the minor-league side).
The lack of a vaccination mandate is the second notable piece of news to surface on the minor-league front on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Advocates for Minor Leagues released a statement criticizing MLB's new housing policies on the grounds that the players were not afforded any input in the policymaking process. Advocates highlighted several flaws with the policy, too, including the lack of accommodations for married players.
Although big-league players remain locked out by the owners, casting doubt on the chances of spring training beginning as normal, minor-league players are expected to report for duty as usual next month. That's because minor-league players are not represented by the MLB Players Association, and therefore are not subject to the same policies during a work stoppage. (Additionally, that's why players are allowed to sign minor-league contracts during the lockout, whereas any transactional activity involving big-league players is not allowed until after the lockout is lifted.)