Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said it is “disappointing” that at least five members of the England squad are reportedly refusing to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
He said the players are role models who could play a part in encouraging others to get the jab.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp also said he is at a loss to explain why there is seemingly a reluctance among Premier League players to be vaccinated – as he made a comparison between the reasons for being jabbed and drink-driving laws.
Their comments came after The Sun reported five players have not had the jab despite organisers of next year’s Qatar World Cup planning to ban all unvaccinated players.
Javid told Times Radio of the “huge vaccine wall of defence” being created, and added: “I would just appeal to these people, whether they are footballers, whoever it is… that the vaccines are working. Help protect yourself and protect those around you.
“They’ve made a conscious choice. It is disappointing, of course it is… They are role models in society. People, especially young people, I think will look up to them and they should recognise that and the difference that can make in terms of encouraging others.”
A report this week suggested only seven of the 20 Premier League clubs have succeeded in fully vaccinating 50 per cent or more of their squads, with the overall average said to be approximately one-third of all players.
Due to medical confidentiality the Premier League will not confirm exact numbers but sources have suggested those figures are out of date and take-up is now higher than the 30-35 per cent indicated in some reports.
Klopp has suggested Liverpool have out-performed most of their rivals with regards to vaccination, saying the Anfield club’s take-up rate is 99 per cent.
Klopp said: “I explain it a little bit like drink-driving. We were all probably in a situation where we had a beer or two and thought ‘I can drive’.
“But this law is not there for protecting me, it is there for protecting all the other people because I am p****d and want to drive a car. And we accept that as a law.
“We all know alcohol is bad for our body but we still drink it. With the vaccination we assume it is not good for our body.
“Most specialists tell us the vaccination is the solution for the situation in this moment.”
Klopp said he believes it is his personal responsibility to consider the lives of others.
He added: “I don’t take the vaccination only to protect me, I take the vaccination to protect all the people around me.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “I am really grateful for the many sports personalities who have leveraged their celebrity to encourage others to get the jab through campaigns and using their own social media platforms.
“They are role models and particularly influential with young people.
“There will be some people unable to get the jab, but it is disappointing to hear there may be some footballers unwilling to get vaccinated, perhaps due to misinformation online.”
Huddleston said work is being done with social media companies to tackle fake news about vaccinations, and he joined England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam in “strongly urging them to get vaccinated”.
Van-Tam held a captain’s briefing on the matter last month and has also provided a video for players in which he addresses the benefits and dispels myths. Clubs are also continuing to speak to players on the matter.
Asked before the story’s publication about the vaccination rate in England’s squad, manager Gareth Southgate said: “I don’t know – our medical team would know but they wouldn’t be telling me who is and who isn’t.
“We will have an idea because there is going to be some things where one group is going to go through one door and another will go through another over the next few months, so I don’t know quite how we are going to keep that medical confidentiality.
“I don’t think with us it is going to affect us that much, because whenever the players are with us we’re always going to be in a bubble and on a sporting exemption, so I guess the bigger issue is going to be players going back to clubs or clubs travelling in certain countries.
“What we do know is that, even with the vaccination, it’s not going to stop people catching it, so our concern on a broader welfare thing is helping everybody to get through this pandemic and I don’t see another way other than a huge vaccination programme frankly.
“I am yet to be advised by those that don’t see it that way what the alternatives are.
“But from a managing the team perspective our risk because of their age is more about they are going to miss games because they catch it.
“But actually, even if they are vaccinated, we still have to take those precautions because they can still catch it and therefore be ruled out of games, so it’s a strange one for us.
“I think we have to make the right representations because we have a responsibility to the broader public to help people get through the virus, but also I understand young people are going to have individual views on how they see it and they’re going to be influenced by what they read and what they see, so it is a far from straightforward cycle.”