Despite vaccine uptake being largely successful across the world, vaccine progress has been somewhat stalled among high level athletes.
Ireland International Callum Robinson, who has missed a number of games for Ireland due to COVID-19, revealed he is not vaccinated. This admission from Robinson surprised many people due to the number of games he has missed.
Speaking to RTÉ, Robinson believes it is a person’s personal choice if they choose to be vaccinated.
“I think it’s your personal choice and my choice at this moment in time, I haven’t been vaccinated.”
While Robinson is correct that it is a personal choice, to not get vaccinated has consequences. Not only does it affect himself, but also his fellow team-mates for club and country. However, this problem does not stop or start with Robinson.
The Premier League recently revealed that only a third of all players have been fully vaccinated. A club doctor spoke to the Daily Mail to reveal the extent that conspiracy theories have had over squads in the league.
“Players are saying that it will make them more infertile, that it’s part of a plot involving Bill Gates. The real problem is that they’re also polluting the minds of younger players,” he said.
Players must realise the damage this has to the game not just on the pitch, but off the pitch. The Premier League is the most watched league in the world and seen by many as the greatest league. Players are role models for the younger generation and must lead by example.
While players have a responsibility, some of the blame must lie with the respective clubs and the FA. For players to believe conspiracy theories and let it control their decision shows a lack of direction from the very top. The PFA must help address any concerns and queries players have regarding the vaccine.
Frustration is begging to set in among those who are vaccinated. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp revealed 99 per cent of his squad is vaccinated, with no convincing needed towards any of the squad. Klopp spoke of the need to think of others when getting vaccinated.
“I got the vaccination because I was concerned about myself but more so for everyone else around me.”
This quote from Klopp really shows the bigger picture. The Premier League has been heavily affected COVID-19, from games called off to a number of players missing games due to contracting the virus. Tragically, it has claimed the lives of loved ones involved in the game, including Pep Guardiola’s mother.
These issues have not been exclusive to the Premier League. The All-Ireland Semi-Final between Tyrone and Kerry was twice postponed due to a COVID outbreak among the Tyrone squad.
While the immediate thoughts were ensuring the full recovery of those affected, revelations by the Tyrone manager to the Irish Examiner highlighted where the teams’ priorities lie.
“We were anxious that if guys were vaccinated, they might go under for two weeks and that might inhibit their performance.”
While it has been rare that someone would be sidelined for two weeks due to the vaccine, the priority of performance over one’s health shows where their priorities lie.
To also put players in a position of choosing between their county or their health is beyond irresponsible. While being in perfect condition for match-day is important, people’s lives could ultimately be at stake.
Ultimately, sporting organisations may have to sanction those who put others at risk. Many athletes who are not vaccinated are not bad people but have been led astray by those who target the most vulnerable. Vaccination is a choice, but the choice to not get vaccinated has consequences for everyone.
If sporting organisations continue to cater for those who do not get vaccinated, athletes will not be encouraged to do so. Some very tough decisions may have to be made in order to ensure the safety of everyone.