‘Prima Donna’ footballers have been rebuked by a public health expert who advises Government on Covid infection for refusing to be vaccinated against the virus.
Professor Keith Neal joined government ministers, pundits and doctors in telling players they need to have a jab, after it emerged two thirds of top-flight stars have not been vaccinated.
In addition, five England stars joined up with the national team without being jabbed this week.
Five England stars have joined the sqaud this week without having a vaccination – manager Gareth Southgate has been among those urging players to be jabbed
Prof Neal is fed up with what he sees as special treatment for top flight players, who he thinks are not doing their bit to reduce the risk of infection.
‘Players should get vaccinated or get off the pitch,’ said the Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham.
‘Footballers are role models. A lot of people take notice of what footballers do.’
The expert, who was unveiled as an advisor to Government on Covid and ethnicity in October last year, does not think footballers should have exemptions from the usual quarantine arrangements when returning from matches in red-list countries.
‘They have had so much special treatment,’ he added.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has urged his players to get vaccinated against Covid-19
‘Just because they are prima donnas, why should they be exempt from quarantine?’
Prof Neal is concerned about the risk of new variants being introduced to the UK from travel to countries outside Europe.
‘With South America, we need to be particularly vigilant,’ he said.
Meanwhile, back at home, Prof Neal believes vaccine passports for everyone attending matches, including players and staff, should be brought forward.
Government had planned to introduce Covid passports at large events, including football matches with crowds above 10,000 people, in England from October 1. However, in the face of political opposition the plans were shelved.
Some of England’s senior stars have rejected the vaccine – there is no suggestion that any of the players pictured above have not been jabbed
The current position is that passports may be introduced under the Government’s ‘Plan B’ should there be a winter surge in Covid infections and hospitalisations.
‘I think Plan B is needed now,’ said Prof Neal. And he added: ‘I would introduce Covid passports for the whole stadium. Then everyone in the stadium is covered.
‘If you have Covid passports for fans, you should have them for players.’
Government ministers have not set a threshold for the implementation of Plan B, but earlier this week, Prof Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, suggested it could be invoked if hospitalisations due to Covid reach 1,200 per day.
Latest hospital data also shows there were 681 Covid admissions on October 3, a small 4 per cent rise compared to the number the previous week.
Prof Neal’s intervention comes after media pundit and ex Chelsea and Everton winger, Pat Nevin, criticised footballers for refusing their Covid jabs.
The ex-Chelsea and Scotland star said he was ‘infuriated’ and ‘upset’ to hear about the percentage of players who have not been jabbed, when ‘everyone’s bent over to get football back on’.
It was revealed last week by Sportsmail that only seven of the 20 clubs have squads where 50 per cent or more of the players are fully vaccinated.
The Premier League and Government have made efforts to encourage the take up of vaccination among players.
Ex-Chelsea and Scotland star Pat Nevin said he is ‘massively disappointed’ that two thirds of Premier League stars have not been double vaccinated
The top flight is considering whether to “reward” clubs whose coronavirus vaccination rates are high.
The PFA chief executive Maheta Molango has written to all players and the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan van Tam produced a myth-busting video, as well as briefing Premier League captains.
However, it seems the message is not getting through.
Republic of Ireland international Callum Robinson admitted he chose not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 despite being hit by the virus twice.
The 26-year-old West Brom striker, was asked at a press conference if he had been vaccinated, he replied: ‘I haven’t been vaccinated, no. That’s my choice at this moment in time.
Republic of Ireland’s Callum Robinson was the first high-profile player to confirm he had refused the jab – despite contracting Covid twice
Later his team mate Nathan Collins defended Robinson’s right to choose. The Burnley defender, who confirmed he has been jabbed, also revealed there are different opinions among the players at Turf Moor.
Asked whether, from his experience, there was a split among the Burnley players, Collins added: “Basically yeah. People have their reasons, their own personal opinion of it, or personal reasons to get it or not to get it.
“Either way, any of my team-mates or people I know if they don’t want to get it or if they do get it, I’ll support them.”
England boss Gareth Southgate has pleaded with England stars to take the Covid jabs for the benefit of society,
Burnley defender Nathan Collins has said the Clarets’ dressing room is divided on jabs