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Saturday, August 13, 2022

The Premier League’s Vaccination Gap is filled with fear and falsehoods

According to the storey, the news spread like wildfire. Players in the Premier League circulated the link amongst their teammates. A number of people shared it with their family members and closest confidantes. A small number of people were sufficiently concerned by what it seemed to indicate that they took it to their respective clubs’ in-house medical staff and asked for guidance.

It had been created by a website that claims to monitor the number of “young athletes who had serious medical concerns in 2021 after having one or more Covid vaccinations,” according to the website. The study claimed to have identified 19 “athletes,” the most of whom were from the United States, who had had heart attacks after receiving the vaccine. Some of the assaults, according to the site, were lethal, which was alarming.

The physicians and others were able to identify the obvious errors in the study almost quickly. Hank Aaron, the Hall of Fame baseball star who passed away in January, was one of the individuals highlighted as an example. He was 86 years old. Another person on the list, a former National Basketball Association player, had been 64 at the time. Even the most rudimentary investigation revealed that many of the younger athletes were suffering from established underlying problems.

But it didn’t matter in the end. The fact that the storey was later and completely refuted did not help either. It had caused several of the soccer players to rethink whether they should consent to being vaccinated in the first place. At least in the opinion of medical professionals, the harm had already been done.

These are not easy times for the Premier League, which is now dealing with an increase in virus cases, a slew of postponements, and requests from within its own ranks to take at least a little break from the season. Because of these difficulties, the league’s vaccination record has come under intense examination, prompting speculation as to why the wealthiest league in the world has had such difficulty getting its athletes to get the injection during first place.

In one sense, the Premier League and its clubs have achieved great success: According to Premier League numbers, 84 percent of its players are on their “vaccination journey,” meaning they have received at least one of a possible three injections since becoming eligible in the spring of this year. The remaining 16 percent, or around 100 players, has, on the other hand, become a source of worry.

Six of the ten Premier League games that were supposed to be played last weekend were postponed after outbreaks of Covid were reported at several teams. A handful of unvaccinated players were forced to self-isolate, as required by British law, after being identified as close contacts of a confirmed case in at least one of those matches, according to reports.

The Premier League’s difficulty to maintain its vaccination numbers on pace with the other of Europe’s major domestic tournaments, as well as other premier sports leagues across the globe, was emphasised by the weekend’s defeat.

The players in Serie A, Italy’s premier division, have been immunised to a high degree (98 percent). In France, the percentage is 95 percent, and in Germany, it is 94 percent – figures that are comparable to those of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League in North America. Spain’s soccer officials revealed that, when both vaccination and naturally acquired immunity were taken into consideration, 97 percent of the country’s players were entirely protected. As a result, the parallel with England is striking: Only 77 percent of Premier League players have had two vaccines, according to the league.

The question of whether it was true that the vaccinations included alcohol was raised during the discussion, raising concerns among Muslim players. He stated that the Pfizer-BioNTech injection did not include any alcohol, but admitted that other shots may contain tiny quantities of the substance. In contrast, he informed the captains that “there was probably more alcohol in the bread you ate this morning,” since the proportions were so little.

While this is true, it does not explain why players in the Premier League — the vast majority of whom are not even British, much alone English — could be more resistant to the adversities they face than their counterparts in other big leagues.

While the percentage of Premier League players who have had vaccinations is about equivalent to the proportion of persons in their age group who have received vaccinations in England, elite soccer is by no means a representative sample of the population. After all, it is a wonderfully worldwide event. Serie A and La Liga and the other top-tier European leagues, where the mix of professionals is practically as diverse as it is in the Premier League, and where vaccination rates are far higher, may be a more appropriate comparison.

For those entrusted with protecting the players, there is a strong belief that taking a bolder, even more punitive approach would be decisive in convincing all but the most passionate holdouts to change their minds. All that can be done until then is to oppose disinformation, influence as many minds as possible, and hope that the games will be able to continue.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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