Why do some footballers hesitate to get vaccinated and what happens next?

West Brom forward Callum Robinson doesn’t want to get the shot

Football managers, the Premier League, governing bodies and even politicians weigh in on the issue of players vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Republic of Ireland and West Brom forward Callum Robinson said on Tuesday he would not be vaccinated – despite having had Covid-19 twice.

So, with less than half of the players vaccinated in most Premier League and English Football League clubs, why might some players be hesitant and how could that impact football?

BBC Sport is looking into the matter.

Rewards, Red List Countries and Models

Football authorities want players to be doubly vaccinated, with Premier League considering “reward” clubs with high coronavirus vaccination rates.

Two weeks ago, teams from just seven top-flight clubs were over 50% fully vaccinated.

One of them is Wolves, who confirmed to BBC Sport that, as of July, 100% of their first team players and staff have been fully vaccinated.

Last week the Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said “99%” of his players had been vaccinated and he did not understand the hesitations of some.

In Scotland, BBC Sport understands that all but four members of the national team and behind-the-scenes staff have received two doses of the vaccine.

In the English Football League, the BBC understands that in September 49% of players were fully vaccinated, down from just 18% the month before.

Graph showing vaccination rate by age group
About 60% or more of people in the typical age group of a professional footballer (18-36 years) have received their first dose of vaccination

Other Premier League managers have already called on their players to get vaccinated, including Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta, Nuno Espirito Santo, Steve Bruce and Graham Potter.

“When all the scientists, all the doctors, all the great medical specialists say that the only solution to eradicate or help move forward after this two-year pandemic situation is to get vaccinated, I think they should consider it. “said the Manchester City boss. Guardiola, including mother died after contracting coronavirus in April 2020.

Karl Darlow plays for Newcastle United
Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow has been hospitalized with Covid-19

If an additional incentive is needed, it was announced that Premier League players are only allowed to travel to ‘red list’ countries designated by the UK, such as Brazil, to represent their country in this month’s World Cup qualifiers ‘they are fully vaccinated.

However – and contrary to some media reports – BBC Sport understands that Fifa does not want a player to be barred from participating in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to his vaccination status, and is looking for alternatives to full vaccination. , including proof of recovery from Covid-19 or negative tests.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid – reacting to information from several members of the England squad had refusedexternal link get vaccinated – said it was “disappointing”.

“They are role models in society. People, especially young people, I think they admire them and they should recognize that and the difference it can make in terms of encouraging others,” Javid said. .

Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow is a player who has publicly called on his fellow footballers to get vaccinated, after being hospitalized with Covid-19 in July.

Speaking to BBC Sport in September, Darlow – who has just regained his physical form after “excruciating fatigue” and losing five kilograms of weight – said his experience convinced “a few” of his teammates to to get vaccinated.

He added that “four or five” other Newcastle players had not been vaccinated “for, hopefully, real reasons”.

But vaccination remains the personal choice of the player – so what could these reasons be?

Disinformation, complacency and WhatsApp groups

In the UK, nearly 49 million people have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while nearly 45 million have received a second – a participation of 89.8% and 82.5% of the over 16s respectively.external link

However, some people choose not to be vaccinated, citing a number of factors, including their lack of confidence in the vaccine, concerns about side effects or fear of needles.

Others – a minority – withdraw from vaccination due to their consumption of misinformation and conspiracy theories online, especially on social networks.

It also affected adoption among footballers.

In September, The Times reported that players shared false information about WhatsApp groups, with PFA Managing Director Maheta Molangoexternal link urging them not to “believe all the myths and lies” online.

All players received advice from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan van Tam, including a demystifying videoexternal link, and Boston United Fan Van Tam also held a briefing with the Premier League captains last month.

Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Boston United players
Professor Jonathan van Tam vaccinated Boston United players

The messages were echoed by Rochdale club doctor Wesley Tensel, who told BBC 5 Live Breakfast on Tuesday that vaccination rates at the League One club were “very low”.

“I think one of the reasons is social media, the anti-vax stuff going around and going around in the locker room,” he said.

“Football locker rooms are different from most workplaces. They’re all together, it’s an echo chamber, so if any of the senior players or influential person has seen something on social media and that it’s been passed on to someone else, they’re not necessarily. likely to critically assess where it’s coming from and they can end up going down a rabbit hole. “

Tensel is also a general practitioner and clinical manager of a local vaccination center. He says he sends messages to players when a clinic is open, but “it has gotten to the point where no one is responding.”

For the West Brom Robinson forward, the decision not to get the shot is, he says, “my choice right now”.

“It’s obviously annoying that I caught it twice but I haven’t been vaccinated,” he said. “Later, I might change my mind and want to do it.”

His manager for the Republic of Ireland, Stephen Kenny, said: “There are a lot of myths and issues around manhood that people worry about and other issues, and I think it’s complex. I am not a medical expert, but I do. trust the experts and I think it is better to be doubly vaccinated. “

Leeds United and Northern Ireland midfielder Stuart Dallas, who is doubly vaccinated, said no one “can be forced to do anything” but has chosen to be vaccinated ” to get back to normal as soon as possible “.

Another reason players are pulling out could be complacency – infection rates among Premier League footballers this season are low.

Last week, the last two rounds of lateral flow tests revealed four new positive cases among 2,927 top club players and staff.

This number has been single-digit every week since the week starting August 23. If so few players get the coronavirus, why is vaccination a problem?

“These players are obviously young and in good shape, so from a certain point of view I can understand why they may think there is no need to get the shot,” Tensel said.

“I spoke to some of the senior players just to get their take on why they think absorption is low, and some of the answers are that they don’t want to feel bad if they get the jab that can affect their performance.

“But obviously, on the other hand, if they were to catch Covid, which a lot of our players have had in the last year or so, they’ve been out for 10 days and feel really bad so I don’t think so. that this argument really overlaps. above. “

“You can’t be forced to do anything” – Dallas, McGinn and Baraclough on the vaccination campaign

What could happen next?

So what is football doing about it?

The numbers are slowly improving and although just under half of EFL players are fully vaccinated, the league says 75% have received one dose, two doses or intend to be vaccinated. This is 70% more than in August.

The EFL says it is actively working with the NHS to provide mobile vaccination clinics in clubs, while in the Premier League, BBC Sport understands that clubs continue to talk to their players to encourage them to get vaccinated.

The government also continues to work closely with clubs to increase immunization.

However, Republic of Ireland boss Kenny believes it would be “pretty radical” if the players were not selected for away games on the basis of their vaccination status.

So maybe football needs to turn to other sports and their approach?

In the rugby union, the Saracens reportedly made face masks and social distancing optional after achieve an 85% immunization goalexternal link.

But in the NBA of American basketball, a stricter approach to protocols means unvaccinated players are more tested and kept as far away from those who are vaccinated as possible.

They are also banned from “high risk establishments”, including restaurants and other places of entertainment.

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins saw his request for a religious exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine rejected by the NBA, which said he could not play any home game until he met San Francisco’s health requirements to attend to major indoor events – including elite athletes. He then chose to be vaccinated.

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