After trading for Whit Merrifield, a two-time all-star, the pressing question for the Toronto Blue Jays was not the calibre of the player himself, but what his availability would look like due to his vaccination status.
There is "nothing new" to note on that front, interim manager John Schneider said on Wednesday, and the team insists it will be leaving it up to Merrifield to decide how he approaches his vaccine choice from here.
"Obviously we know he wasn't there in Toronto, but totally up to him," Schneider said. "And I'm sure that he's had conversations with his family and other people. So, you know, we're leaving that decision up to him."
When Kansas City came to Toronto from July 14-17, Merrifield was one of the 10 players who were notably absent, barred from travelling to Canada due to restrictions put in place that mandate cross-border travellers be vaccinated to enter the country. America has a similar policy for non-residents, though it has not impacted the Blue Jays, as all their players have received the requisite COVID-19 vaccine.
Merrifield has yet to weigh in on his vaccination status since news of the trade broke on Tuesday, declining to make comments to reporters in Kansas City yesterday, according to the team's communication staff.
Previously, when discussing the vaccine, Merrifield said after the Toronto series he would think about getting inoculated in the future — if doing so would enable him playing in the postseason.
"Right or wrong, I didn't do it on a whim,” Merrifield said. “It's been a long thought process. Because I understand what Canada has in place right now. That's the only reason that I would think about getting it at this point, is to go to Canada. That might change down the road. Something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes."
Merrifield has not publicly explained what that thought process has entailed, or why he elected not to get vaccinated despite the clinical and real-world evidence pointing to the efficacy of vaccines at reducing risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 — especially when a person stays up to date on their vaccinations, with booster shots further improving protection.
In order for Merrifield to satisfy the country's requirements as a fully vaccinated traveller, he must have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine accepted for travel, according to the government of Canada's most recent advisory, or at least one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Whichever vaccination regimen is opted for, a person must have received their second dose — or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — at least 14 calendar days before entering Canada. This timing requirement only applies to a person's second dose, not their third or fourth doses.
That means, if Merrifield chose to get vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine today, Aug. 3, the earliest he would be eligible to play in Toronto would be after Aug. 17, when the Blue Jays host the Baltimore Orioles. Toronto's next home games this month come the following week, starting with an Aug. 23 game against the Boston Red Sox.