Montreal is over 85 percent vaccinated but Jones still encouraging players to be ‘diligent’

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The Montreal Alouettes have reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold, which was the benchmark set by the CFL in early August. The number was announced as part of a change in protocols that featured reduced restrictions for players who were already vaccinated.

Head coach Khari Jones spoke to his players on Tuesday about the Edmonton Elks’ recent COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in the postponement of their game this week against the Toronto Argonauts.

“I told them to just be as diligent as they can with everything and try not to drop the protocols as things get going because as we can see, things can happen and we don’t want to fall prey to COVID,” said Jones via videoconference.

“Unfortunately, there’s situations where you do everything right and it still happens, so we just have to be as smart as we can and do everything that the CFL asks us to do and we’re trying to do that.”

Edmonton Elks’ president and CEO Chris Presson indicated on Monday that his team was ranked No. 7 in the CFL in vaccination rate. Head coach Khari Jones couldn’t say for certain where his team falls on the list, but knows they are one of the league’s most-vaccinated teams.

“I know we were high on the list. I think we were No. 2 the last time I looked, but I couldn’t tell you right now. I know we were pretty high up there,” said Jones.

Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie said that the team could still improve its vaccination rate with the possibility of more players getting the shot. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally approved the Pfizer-BioNTech on Monday, which was a sticking point for some who were hesitant about taking the vaccine.

“A couple guys are coming around to the idea of being vaccinated, but at the same time we can’t force anyone to get vaccinated,” said Ackie.

“We just gotta make sure we maintain safety throughout our daily lives. When we’re here, we wear a mask. When we’re outside of the stadium, we continue to wear a mask. That’s where we gotta focus on — what we can do here to stay safe.”

Jones has employed an education-based approach to vaccinations, which he said has resulted in “quite a few guys” getting vaccinated since the start of training camp.

“Everybody has their different reasons. We’re not pushing any of the guys or forcing any of the guys in that kind of way. We just want to lay out out the facts … and make sure that everybody has all the information that they need to make their decision,” said Jones.

As part of the league’s new protocols, CFL players will not receive a game cheque if they are a member of a team with a vaccination rate below 85 percent. Jones realizes that eclipsing that mark is key from not only a health and safety perspective, but financially as well.

“Being over 85 percent is a pretty magic number, not only for immunity and having your guys here and being able to play with your team, but also money-wise. If something does happen, you know if you’re 85 percent you know that the team still gets money, so that should be important for them, too,” he said.

“I think our guys realize that hey this is what you have to do to play the game. We’ve already been without it for a year, so our guys have been pretty solid. They’re willing to wear their masks indoor and socially distance. Whatever is asked that can keep this away, they’re doing it, so I’m pretty proud of that.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.