Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette were among four players who were ruled of the Premier League opener against Brentford after testing positive for Covid-19. Willian and Alex Runarsson were the other two.
Manager Dean Smith has admitted that ‘not everyone is vaccinated’. ‘We are certainly pushing to get everyone vaccinated,’ said Smith. ‘We have a dedicated medical person who is on the case. It is something we are certainly encouraging.’
The club said their youth players were taking up the offer of getting vaccinated at a Turf Moor pop-up site before the senior team’s match at home to Leeds. Young fans are being encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity too.
Thomas Frank said the club have been emphasising players’ social duty to get the jab. ‘We all have a responsibility to do our best to fight this pandemic,’ he said. ‘We can do that by getting jabbed. That’s my advice. But everyone has their own choice.’
Manager Graham Potter, who lost a 48-year-old relative to the virus, said there was unease among players about the vaccine. Asked if players views were mixed, he replied, ‘Yeah, it’s not unanimous. There are concerns and it’s important that those concerns are addressed.’
Striker Romelu Lukaku says he is double-vaccinated, adding: ‘I have family members who are high-risk. As a player, it’s up to you. The only thing we can do is be careful around the general population because we have a lot of responsibilities.’
Manager Patrick Vieira has said the club are working hard to educate players but would not make vaccines mandatory. ‘What we did at the club is talk about Covid and explain what Covid is really, and the impact it can have on themselves, family and other people around them,’ he said.
Midfielder Fabian Delph published a quote on Instagram sharing anti-vaccine sentiments. Manager Rafael Benitez said: ‘We know the issues with Covid. We have lots of players isolating and this is a problem for the team.’
Midfielder Thiago is another of the few players to express his support for the vaccination. ‘We are fortunate to have access to it,’ he said over the summer. ‘We have less risk in our profession, but the vaccine is a priority in the world.’
Midfielder and Euro 2020 star Kalvin Phillips showed his support for the jab by opening the vaccination centre at Elland Road while striker Patrick Bamford was praised by the city council for his positive messaging around Covid protocols.
Brendan Rodgers, who lost players for a period last season after they breached Covid regulations, has said getting vaccinated should be down to the players. ‘It’s a personal choice and it’s ultimately down to the individual,’ he said.
Pep Guardiola is hopeful that the club’s medical department will convince players to get jabbed. ‘The doctors can do it,’ he said. ‘The players have to know that it can protect them and the rest of society but nobody can obligate them to do it.’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed vaccine hesistancy among his squad. ‘Some of them are already fully vaccinated, some are not sure,’ he said. ‘But we’re going to have a bigger session with them because it’s important that everyone knows what it’s about.’
Manager Daniel Farke says Premier League players are less likely to get jabs compared to their counterparts in his native German because they are under less societal pressure. ‘The social and political pressure here seems to me to be much less,’ he said.
‘A lot of our players who haven’t had the jab,’ said boss Steve Bruce. ‘It’s their prerogative. We’ve had two or three players really sick with Covid, so we’ve seen the severity of it first-hand. But there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there.’
Forward Theo Walcott recorded a video with the NHS after getting his second jab in which he urged others to do likewise. ‘I encourage everyone to take note and get their vaccinations when called upon,’ he said.
Nuno Espirito Santo said: ‘I respect all the personal choices – each and every one of us should decide – but I’m in favour of the vaccine and I would [encourage] all the players to get the vaccine.’
Xisco, the manager, repeated the sentiment of managers saying player should not be required to get vaccinated. ‘The only thing I can say is it’s a personal situation,’ he said. ‘In my case I’ve had the vaccine, it’s important, but it’s a personal decision.’
Winger Adama Traore was among the Spain squad who were vaccinated before European Championship over the summer. The club’s Under 23 squad had their summer schedule disrupted by coronavirus cases at scheduled opponents.
Vice-chairman Karren Brady said some players would still not get the jab if it was compulsory. ‘Some will still say ‘no way’.’ she said. ‘You can see why fit young people living in a bubble and being tested every few days are reluctant to have it.’