A quarter of Football League players still have no intention of getting the Covid-19 vaccine despite the Government’s attempts to persuade them of its benefits.
The proportion of footballers who have been double-vaccinated has increased from approximately 18 per cent in August to 49 per cent in the latest set of figures collated by the League.
But the number of players who have been immunised or plan to get the jab has gone up by only five per cent over the past month, the Mail on Sunday has learnt.
‘Approximately 75 per cent of players this month across the EFL are fully vaccinated, have had a single jab or intend to be vaccinated, which is up from 70 per cent in the last set of figures,’ a source said.
A quarter of Football League players still have no intention of getting the Covid vaccine
It is understood that some players are reluctant to get vaccinated against the disease because their youth and level of fitness mean they are unlikely to suffer should they contract it.
They are also concerned by stories of people suffering heart inflammation after taking the vaccine, even though official medical agencies have reported such cases as ‘very rare’.
One theory circulating among players is that Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 might have been linked to the jab, despite no medical evidence to support the suggestion.
The latest figures emerge even though the EFL have stepped up efforts to ‘bust the myths’ around the vaccine’s safety and to educate players on its benefits for individuals and society. Posters and leaflets containing such information have been distributed to clubs in the hope that they will be displayed in stadiums and training grounds.
The EFL are also working with the NHS to increase the number of mobile vaccination centres visiting clubs.
One theory circulating among players is that Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 might have been linked to the jab despite there being no medical evidence to support the suggestion
‘Vaccinations will preserve the integrity of our competitions and we’re continuing to educate players and staff,’ the source said.
The EFL and Premier League recorded a video with professor Jonathan Van-Tam last month in which the Government’s deputy chief medical officer debunked some of the conspiracy theories.
It was circulated among players’ WhatsApp groups, with the Government hoping their willingness to get vaccinated would encourage other young people to follow suit as take-up stalled in the general population.
Figures released last week revealed only 55 per cent of people aged between 16 and 18 have had one dose of the vaccine, even though it has been available to them since early August.
Nine per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds have had a first jab since it was rolled out to them last month. Gary Neville, co-owner of League Two side Salford City, however, said that players were being swayed by claims online that Government-approved vaccines were not rigorously tested.
‘There is a feeling, having spoken to one or two players, that there have been incidents across the globe where fit and well athletes have had the vaccination and then they’ve [had] incidents in the weeks after,’ the former England defender said on his Sky Sports podcast.
Gary Neville said players were being swayed by claims online that Government-approved vaccines were not rigorously tested
‘There is a nervousness that they’re healthy people and don’t want to take a vaccine that hasn’t gone through the most rigorous of testing that maybe other vaccines have had in the past. I’m not supporting this view, I’m explaining what I’m hearing from players.
‘People might say that’s wrong. But they are getting it from somewhere and they believe it. They think it’s a bigger risk to have the vaccination against having it.’ Tammy Abraham became the first England player to reveal his vaccination status in the build-up to the World Cup qualifier against Andorra.
The Roma forward said he had the jab but team-mates Phil Foden, Fikayo Tomori and Jesse Lingard refused to comment when asked.
John Stones’ partner Olivia Naylor is reported to have shared anti-vax material on Instagram. The make-up artist posted a clip of the NBA player Jonathan Isaac saying that he declined the jab in the belief that, having recovered from the disease, natural immunity protected him from it.
Tammy Abraham revealed he has been vaccinated but Phil Foden, Fikayo Tomori and Jesse Lingard refused to comment when asked if they have taken the jab
England boss Gareth Southgate has said he does not know how many of his players had been jabbed.
Milan defender Tomori said he also was unaware of other players’ vaccination status. ‘I haven’t had any conversations about the vaccinations,’ he said. ‘For me it’s a personal issue. I want to keep it to myself.’
Fully-vaccinated footballers who travelled to one of the seven red-list nations for the current round of World Cup qualifiers have been given a partial exemption from the Government’s quarantine rules.
This means Brazilians, such as Manchester United’s Fred and Ederson of Manchester City, will be allowed to train and play while completing 10 days of quarantine in private facilities — as opposed to a Government-listed hotel.
The organisers of the 2022 Qatar World Cup are understood to have shelved plans to make it mandatory for players to have been vaccinated at the tournament