Premier League’s vaccine rate is the WORST in the world as rival sports pull weight in Covid battle


Premier League clubs are lagging behind the world’s major sports in persuading its star players to get the Covid-19 jab.

A Mail on Sunday survey has found that almost all other top leagues have a much higher vaccine take-up rate than English football. 

Even tennis – which has had a similar issue with vaccine hesitancy – is threatening to outstrip English football, with the take-up rate on the ATP Tour having improved by around 20 per cent over the past six weeks.

Richarlison has received his jab but Premier League clubs are lagging in the vaccination battle

Rival sports have attributed their success to reasons that include top athletes promoting the jab and tougher restrictions for unvaccinated players, neither of which have happened in the Premier League.

This has been done in some American sports such as the NFL, who have more than 95 per cent of their players and staff fully-vaccinated despite a number of high-profile refuseniks with some franchises as high as 100 per cent.

They credit star players and coaches coming out as strong vocal advocates for vaccination as a key factor in their high number, such as Superbowl-winning coach Bruce Arians.

‘That has had a huge impact in dressing rooms,’ NFL chief medical officer Dr Allen Sills told The Mail on Sunday. ‘Young and less experienced players look up to them and want to be as successful in the same way. It speaks to have people who have the trust of the players. That has been incredibly important.’

Wolves (pictured), Brentford and Leeds have been successful, but other teams are struggling

Wolves (pictured), Brentford and Leeds have been successful, but other teams are struggling

The Premier League has lacked such a spokesperson among top players with conspiracy theories about virility and heart defects being shared amongst WhatsApp groups. 

They were unable to persuade its players to take part in a similar publicity campaign despite myth-bunking videos from the UK’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam.

Everton striker Richarlison was revealed to be a rare advocate last week. 

The Brazilian has been involved in campaigns encouraging people in Brazil to get vaccinated and posted a picture on social media of himself receiving his second jab.

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Yet the Premier League still lags behind. Of its 20 clubs, 13 were understood to have vaccination rates of less than 50 per cent, according to a letter sent to clubs in September. This figure is likely to have risen slightly.

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam looked to debunk vaccine conspiracy theories

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam looked to debunk vaccine conspiracy theories

The most recent set of Football League figures, revealed by Sportsmail last week, had just 49 per cent of players fully vaccinated. A quarter of EFL players effectively said they were not planning to get jabbed.

Yet Britain’s two rugby codes have both seen swift increase in the number of players getting immunised since the summer.

Premiership Rugby are understood to have started the season with only three clubs having reached a squad target of 85 per cent vaccinated.

But sources say the ‘majority’ have got to that mark and all 13 union sides are expected to have reached it by the start of November.

The clubs who said that they were at 85 per cent included Leicester, Saracens, Sale, Worcester, Harlequins, Newcastle, Exeter and London Irish.

Clubs in the Premiership, Championship and women’s Premier 15s were incentivised to get vaccinated by being told that they could relax Covid protocols once 85 per cent of their squad were jabbed.

The Premier League was reported to have considered measures incentivising the jab but is yet to implement them. 

The 'majority' of Premiership Rugby clubs have reached a squad target of 85 per cent jabbed

The ‘majority’ of Premiership Rugby clubs have reached a squad target of 85 per cent jabbed

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson, who had warned his players that they could lose their jobs if they did not get inoculated, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We’re up to the minimum standard, 85 per cent. 

‘We’re not forcing any of them into it, at all. It’s more a case of “this is what is recommended, this is the choice, it’s up to you”. But it’s been generally well received.’

Harlequins coach Tabai Matson said: ‘I think we got there in round one. Everybody jumped on board and I’m not sure what our rate is now, but it’s well over 85 per cent. It’s one of those things where people just did what they were told.’

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It is understood that players of Pacific Island heritage, across both codes of rugby, have been among the more reluctant to be vaccinated for religious and cultural reasons.

Overall, however, significant progress has been made in rugby league too, with scrums returning next season – when vaccinate rates at all clubs are expected to be at 85 per cent.

In the Super League, the overall vaccination rate was at 78 per cent by mid-September, with the highest being 96 per cent at champions St Helens.

About 96 per cent of England’s international cricket players during the pandemic have been double jabbed.

Harlequins coach Tabai Matson said the vaccination rate for his side was well over 85 per cent

Harlequins coach Tabai Matson said the vaccination rate for his side was well over 85 per cent

Of all the major sports, tennis has had the biggest issue with players getting jabbed, with those from Eastern Europe understood to be the most likely to be reluctant.

But its rates have improved from just above 50 per cent at the start of September to between 60 per cent-65 per cent, sources said.

The prospect of much stronger quarantine restrictions at the Australian Open in January is expected to increase rates further.

Novak Djokovic is opposed to getting vaccinated but senior players who have changed their mind and decided to get jabbed include Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem.

American sports across the board put the Premier League to shame. Major League Soccer have around 95 per cent of their players and staffed vaccinated while the men’s and women’s US national teams are almost 100 per cent.

‘I would like to believe that it has been built on the conversations between us medical staff and players from the beginning of Covid,’ US Soccer’s chief medical officer George Chiampas told The Mail on Sunday

‘We have had those conversations (about conspiracy theories). In those circumstances I will have direct conversation with that athlete and I try to provide them with the best possible information. They are like my family so I speak to them as such. I don’t want to pressure anyone into a position but we are open and honest.’ 

Major League Soccer (pictured) have around 95 per cent of their players and staff vaccinated

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Major League Soccer (pictured) have around 95 per cent of their players and staff vaccinated

The PGA Tour also told The Mail on Sunday that more than 85 per cent of golfers and caddies were fully vaccinated while the European Tour claim the ‘significant majority’ of theirs have been.

Major League Baseball told The Mail on Sunday that it was at 87 per cent and put much of its success down to top players helping to promote both the jab and Covid protocols such as Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The NFL, which imposed much tighter Covid restrictions and more frequent tests on unvaccinated players, has said that 93.7 per cent of its players were vaccinated and 100 per cent of its personnel. Atlanta Falcons fired a scout who refused to get vaccinated.

In Australia and New Zealand, the National Basketball League has reported a 99 per cent vaccination rate. The New Zealand Breakers player Tai Webster was released from his contract because of his refusal to get inoculated.

The NBA, which has also enforced tougher rules on unvaccinated players, reached 95 per cent by the end of last month.

Unvaccinated basketball players in the US must eat in separate rooms to team-mates and staff who have had the jab, use lockers as far away from vaccinated players as possible, and must stay masked and at least six feet away from all other attendees in any team meeting.



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