Premier League officials have resorted to making a video with the Government urging players to ignore myths around the Covid vaccine.
Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, has agreed to clear up misinformation around the vaccine amid growing concern about footballers refusing get innoculated.
Professor Van-Tam recorded footage on Friday in which he answered a series of questions put to him by a Premier League representative.
Premier League chiefs have drafted in Jonathan Van-Tam to help dispel vaccine myths for stars still refusing the jab
It is due to be shared among players imminently to avoid more of the Covid-enforced setbacks threatening to undermine the new season.
Van-Tam recorded a second video that the Premier League will share with fans to stress the importance of getting fully immunised. It is expected to be shared on Premier League social media accounts.
The pressure on players to get the jab is due to increase this week when the Government meets to discuss plans to make vaccine passports mandatory for anyone who attends an event attracting a crowd of more than 20,000 people.
Ministers are expected to make it compulsory for fans to have had two doses of vaccine amid fears that matches could become Covid hotspots.
Sources said the Department of Health and Social Care were in contact with the Premier League over the summer about the role footballers could play in encouraging young people to get immunised.
Richard Masters, the Premier League CEO, said he hoped the vast majority of players would have had the vaccine by the end of this month
The league returned to the DHSC in recent weeks amid increasing unease around the number of players who have chosen not to get jabbed, as this newspaper has repeatedly highlighted in recent weeks.
Van-Tam, a Boston United supporter and keen football fan, was keen to get involved and recorded the videos at the end of last week.
Along with the Premier League medical officer, Mark Gillett, Van Tam had addressed a virtual meeting of the league’s captains’ group on August 2 to address the myths circulating among players and underline the importance of getting the jab to wider society.
Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, said at the time that he hoped the ‘vast majority’ of players would have done so by the end of this month.
However, last week it was revealed that almost a third of players in the English Football League players were not immunised and had no plans to get jabbed.
The Telegraph reported that the data collected by the EFL found that around only 70 per cent of EFL players at its 72 clubs had received at least one dose of vaccine or were intending to get one.
Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka went into isolation after he chose not to get the vaccine and subsequently tested positive for the virus
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, meanwhile, went into isolation after he chose not to get immunised and subsequently tested positive for the disease while on international duty with Switzerland.
A message from Jose Mourinho’s verified Instagram account responded with the message: ‘Get the jab Granit and be safe.’
Xhaka’s team-mates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were among four Arsenal players who were ruled out of their Premier League defeat by Brentford after testing positive for Covid.
Both Scotland and Wales’s squad have been depleted by Covid for the current international break, with Robert Page’s Welsh squad missing 10 players from their previous competitive fixture for Sunday’s match against Belarus.
Scotland’s initial squad of 26 players was reduced to 15 outfield players plus three goalkeepers ahead of last week’s World Cup qualifying defeat by Denmark. Several players returned for last night’s match against Moldova.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Steve Bruce, his Newcastle counterpart, admitted last month that members of their squads had also refused to get innoculated.
Bruce said players were being deterred by conspiracy theories about the supposed risks of the vaccine and the motivation for its rollout, while Solskjaer said of his some squad were ‘not sure’ about getting it.
Newcastle boss Steve Bruce said players were being deterred by conspiracy theories
Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted not all of his players had been jabbed
A Mail on Sunday survey of clubs through each of the four divisions of the English football pyramid found that those clubs with players who had chosen not to get vaccinated included Cardiff, Middlesbrough, Millwall, Oldham, Bradford, Harrogate and Morecambe.
Cardiff manager Mick McCarthy said: ‘I’d like to think everybody would want to have it, but not everybody does. I don’t know about all the conspiracy theories out there.
‘Some think they are putting a chip into you and are then able to follow you all around. They can do that with your phone these days — and every one of them has a phone.
‘I had it and I couldn’t wait to get it. I didn’t want to be laid up with Covid. It doesn’t seem to affect the younger guys so much. It is their choice and we can’t make them have it. We’ve had a grown-up response to it, but while some have said yes, others have said no.’
This newspaper last week asked each Premier League club if they wanted to join Wolves, Leeds and Brentford in revealing what proportion of their squad had been vaccinated, but none did so. The majority of them have cited medical confidentiality as the reason.
Wolves confirmed that all of their squad had been double-jabbed, while Brentford said 89% of their players had had at least one vaccination and most of them were fully vaccinated. Ninety-four per cent of its training-ground staff has had at least one jab.
Leeds United’s squad were reported to have been 96% vaccinated with the remaining planning to get the jab
Leeds United’s squad were reported to have been 96% vaccinated with the remaining planning to get the jab.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said it was incumbent on footballers to set an example for young people who are reluctant to get vaccinated. ‘The evidence is overwhelming that getting vaccinated is good for your own health and helps protect others,’ he said. ‘We therefore strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Sports stars are role models and particularly influential with young people.’
England manager Gareth Southgate, however, said players should be given the freedom to make the call. ‘Players are old enough to make their own decisions,’ Southgate said, ‘so coaches can give advice, can explain the benefits or otherwise but in the end players have got to make their own decisions. Across the leagues it seems to be wildly different in terms of players who want to [get vaccinated] and players who don’t.’
SPORT-BY-SPORT BATTLE WITH ANTI-VAXXERS
By James Sharpe
There is a real split. The ATP Tour said ‘just above 50 per cent’ of players have been vaccinated.
The situation has not been helped by huge stars such as Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas questioning vaccines.
World No 3 Tsitsipas said: ‘For me the vaccine has not been tested enough, it is new, it has some side-effects. For young people, I think it’s good to pass the virus because we will build immunity.’
Andy Murray believes players have ‘a responsibility’ to get jabbed while two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka said it’s ‘bizarre that fans have to be vaccinated and players are not’.
THE PGA Tour told The Mail on Sunday that more than 85 per cent of players and caddies are fully vaccinated while the European Tour said a ‘significant majority’ had been.
One player who hasn’t been jabbed is Bryson DeChambeau despite missing the Olympics after contracting coronavirus.
‘The vaccine doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening. I don’t need it. I’m healthy,’ said the former US Open champion.
The PGA Tour of America are understood to have written to potential Ryder Cup selections asking if they would get vaccinated.
Around 96 per cent of England’s international players during the pandemic have been double jabbed. The ECB want everyone vaccinated by the end of the summer so that anyone selected for cricket over the winter is fully protected when travelling.
England captain Joe Root recently backed calls for more volunteers at vaccination centres: ‘The NHS have been amazing throughout these unprecedented times,’said Root. ‘Please show your support by volunteering with the vaccine rollout this summer.
‘Let’s make sure we’re doing everything we can to look out for each other and the generations to come.’
Premiership Rugby would not give exact vaccination figures but said they ‘encourage all players and management to be double vaccinated as soon as possible’.
The British & Irish Lions were vaccinated before their tour of South Africa, though it will not be mandatory for players to be jabbed in this season’s Premiership.
England centre Henry Slade was criticised in May after saying he wouldn’t have the jab because he ‘didn’t agree with it at all’.
‘I don’t think you can trust it, can you,’ he said. He later claimed he wasn’t offering advice to the public but going on his past experiences of living with diabetes.’