The news spread like wildfire. players of Premier League, from England, shared the link with his teammates and friends. Some have given it to their close family members and confidante. Some were concerned enough with what it looked like to show the study to their respective club medical staff for advice.
The document was produced by a website that says it tracked “the number of young athletes who had serious medical problems in 2021 after receiving one or more vaccines against the disease. COVID-19The report claimed to list 19 “players” – mostly in the United States – who said they had heart attacks after being vaccinated. Some attacks, the website ominously reported, were fatal.
Almost immediately, doctors and other health professionals discovered obvious flaws in the research. One of the cited examples was that of Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron, who died in January. He was 86 years old. Another name on the list, a former NBA, was 64 years old. The most superficial research showed that many young athletes also had documented underlying conditions, some types of comorbidities, that put them at higher risk of disease.
But that’s not the point. Nor the fact that the report was later largely uncovered. This led football players to question whether they should agree to the vaccination. The damage, at least in the opinion of medical experts, was already done among English football players who have had a series of games postponed because of the progress of the new coronavirus.
These have not been easy weeks for the Premier League, which is currently facing an outbreak of virus cases, a plethora of match postponements (two more games were postponed on Thursday) and even its Even those within the ranks are asked to take at least a temporary break in the season. , These problems have brought its backward vaccination record under close scrutiny and raised questions about why the world’s richest league went to great trouble convincing its stars to take the shot.
In one light, the league and its teams have had considerable success: the Premier League has released numbers that show that 84% of its stars are on their “vaccination journey”, meaning they have less than one in three possible chances. is less than one. Got qualified in the spring. The remaining 16%, however – around 100 players – have become a cause for concern.
Six of the ten Premier League games to be played this past weekend have been postponed after clubs hit by the Covid outbreak. It was reported that at least one of these matches was canceled not because of positive tests, but because several unaffiliated players had isolated themselves, as required by British law, in a confirmed case close. After being recognized as a contact. He was quarantined.
The lost weekend highlighted the Premier League’s struggle to keep its vaccination numbers on par with Europe’s top domestic competitions and other major sporting leagues around the world.
The main Italian division Serie A vaccinated 98% of its players. In France, the number is 95% and in Germany, 94% – the same number as the NFL, NBA and NHL in the United States. Spanish football officials reported that 97% of players were fully covered, taking into account vaccination and naturally acquired immunity. The comparison with England, then, is harsh: in the Premier League, only 77% of athletes received two doses of the vaccine.
The reason for this deviation is not easy to establish. The New York Times spoke on condition of anonymity with several players, consultants, officials, staff and medical staff because they are not allowed to discuss private health issues. These interviews paint a complex and unclear picture of why vaccine hesitation has become so embedded in the world’s richest football league.
“It’s hard to say that there’s only one reason,” said Mehta Molongo, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, the UK players’ association. “That’s really the case.”
Concerns about potential side effects have certainly become widespread. A series of recent incidents have involved players with heart problems on the field – including Christian Eriksson, the Danish midfielder who passed out in this year’s UEFA European Cup, and Barcelona striker Sergio Aguero, who has just retired – has fueled skepticism about vaccines. players.
Some club medical teams say the skepticism was encouraged by a handful of retired players, including former England midfielders Matt Le Tissier and Trevor Sinclair, who previously played for Manchester City and West Ham, who have been exposed to vaccination potential. The events have been publicly identified as a result. , The fact that Ericsson was not vaccinated when he was out on the field during Euros in June made little difference.
But incidents involving other people are far from the only source of suspicion. According to The New York Times, several players expressed concern that the vaccine might lower their sperm count, and several doctors revealed that they faced questions about the link to low virility, especially when singer Nicky Minaj tweeted that a friend of the family was suffering from “swollen testicles”. “As a result of the vaccine (both theories are unfounded).
Molongo suggested that some players may also have “concerns about religion”. Earlier this year, the Premier League arranged for England’s deputy medical director Jonathan Van Tam, who regularly used football-themed metaphors during his public statements, to address the league’s 20 club captains. So that more players can be encouraged to get vaccinated against covid. 19.
During the meeting, he was asked whether it was true that vaccines contain alcohol – a matter of concern for Muslim players. He confirmed that the Pfizer-BioNTech injections do not contain alcohol, but acknowledged that others may contain trace amounts of the substance. But the amount was so small, he told the captains, “The bread they ate for breakfast that morning probably contained more wine.”
Molango said others have “doubts about the credibility” of those who encourage them to get vaccinated. Some players also noted that before the vaccine was developed, it was considered safe for them to go back to work last year, and now dislike the vaccination order to continue playing.
In some cases, it has crystallized into something more relentless: an ideological refusal to fire the shot. Most players, however, are more hesitant than protesting, team officials said – inclined to think that as healthy young people, they would not suffer even if they had contracted the virus and therefore needed to take any risks. Doesn’t require what they may or may not have. Be in a vaccine. After all, their bodies are their livelihood, and many told members of their club’s medical staff that they would not take anything that was irrefutably safe.
However, this does not fully explain why Premier League players (most of whom are non-British, let alone English) must be tougher than their peers in the other major leagues.
While the proportion of Premier League vaccinated players is roughly the same as the number of people in their age group who have been vaccinated in England, elite football is hardly a representative sample. After all, it’s happily international. The most appropriate parallel may be with Serie A and La Liga and others, where the mix of professionals is almost as global as in the Premier League, and where vaccination rates are very high.
The Premier League says it has done everything possible to persuade its players to accept the vaccine. Van Tam not only addressed the league club captains, but also released a video highlighting the importance of vaccination and dispelling myths to reinforce the message. He personally toured the teams. Other clubs, struggling to convince their strongholds to vaccinate, have received visiting experts eager to answer questions and allay fears.
The clubs also “did their part”, as Molango put it. Many have invited medical teams to their training facilities to make it easier for players to put putts. In Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp has been a vocal supporter of a “moral” imperative to vaccinate. Leeds United officials have made vaccination a non-negotiable part of a player’s duty to his teammates, and players on other teams have been shaken by the effects of teammates’ experiences of testing positive or team-related deaths. Post-vaccination is adopted. 19 was about friends and coworkers.
However, other clubs were accused of being too light, not giving enough guidance to players from the start, giving the illusion that there was no real urgency to vaccination. Critics say it created a space in which propaganda could flourish. A Premier League team initially encouraged athletes to get vaccinated in their own time. When it did not receive many answers, the officials again dropped the suggestion. Only after a few weeks the club, realizing it had run into a wall, decided to invite a vaccination team to the training centre.
However, the attitude of the clubs is beginning to change. Many transfer agreements included written clauses in players’ contracts stating that vaccination was mandatory. Agents expect this to become the norm in the coming months: Klopp, like Aston Villa’s Steven Gerrard and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, have made it clear that their club prefers not to sign unvaccinated players.
Internal measures are also becoming stricter. At least one Premier League club no longer allows unvaccinated athletes to dine with their teammates and requires them to change their training equipment before getting into the car instead of the locker room. The Premier League is now considering adopting its protocol to make similar precautions more comprehensive.
The hope among those accused of keeping players safe is that a more proactive and tougher stance will prove decisive among all but a few ardent opponents. Until then, all leagues can do is try to neutralize misinformation, change as many views as possible and hope that play continues.