Covid vaccinations: Martinez defends Belgian players who opted out of taking jab

June 3 – Belgian head coach Roberto Martinez (pictured) has downplayed some of his players not taking a vaccine before the kick-off of Euro 2020, even though the ‘Red Devils’ were fast-tracked to get a first dose in time for the continental finals. 

The world’s number one FIFA ranked team, as well as Belgium’s Olympic team, were given priority by health authorities to get vaccinated and enter competition protected. Some players of Belgium’s 26-men squad didn’t take the vaccine.

At a news conference on Wednesday, manager Martinez delivered a muddled message. “It’s more to do with the antibodies,” explained Martinez, rather than with the timing of the second dose.

The Belgian FA (KBVB) had hoped to inoculate its players with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires a single dose, but once the Belgian government set a minimum age of 41 for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the KBVB were compelled to use Pfizer, which requires two doses with a time interval of four weeks.

In the Belgian squad, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Yannick Carrasco and Eden Hazard have contracted the virus in the past 12 months. Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Timothy Castagne and Jérémy Doku were among the players who received their first jab on Monday at the Belgian base camp.

“After your vaccine, a weight is lifted off your shoulders,” commented Doku. “Now, we can focus.”

It’s unclear how many players didn’t take a first jab, but Martinez indicated that the number didn’t exceed 50%, emphasising that the KBVB and the team are pro-vaccination.

“Each player has been given specific advice based on his individual case,” explained Martinez. “Those are medical decisions, which are intended to ensure that everyone performs optimally. For example, some players already have antibodies. The majority is already vaccinated. We are for vaccination, there is no discussion about it.”

Martinez denied that players feared getting ill after receiving a second dose of the vaccine, the timing of which would coincide with the business end of the tournament.

Belgian national team press officer Stefan Van Loock added that “all decisions about vaccinations were taken after consultation with the virologists.”

In the Netherlands, defender Matthijs De Ligt created a storm when he seemed to indicate he was anti-vaccination before making a u-turn. Italy has ordered all its players to get vaccinated before the finals.

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