Nineteen EFL matches due to be played this weekend had been postponed by 3pm on Friday
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston says being vaccinated against Covid-19 is the “socially responsible thing to do” after the EFL announced one in four of its players currently had no intention of getting even one jab.
The league said on Thursday it was stepping up its Covid-19 protocols as cases nationwide skyrocket amid the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus, and by 3pm on Friday, 19 matches across its three divisions had been postponed due to coronavirus infections.
Huddleston insisted vaccination remained a personal choice, but urged footballers and wider society to get the two initial jabs and the booster.
“I recognise that some people can’t get vaccinated, but we all need to encourage those who aren’t vaccinated to overcome their reluctance,” the minister said.
“The facts speak for themselves. The overwhelming majority of those seriously ill from Covid in hospital are unvaccinated.
“The most important thing anyone – including footballers – can do to protect themselves, co-workers and loved ones is to get vaccinated and get a booster.
“Getting the jab is the socially responsible thing to do.
“Many footballers and sports stars have used their profile and social media to encourage people to get vaccinated. I am very grateful to them. They can reach people that ministers can’t.
“I know the football authorities are also working with players to understand why some are vaccine hesitant.”
The Premier League, EFL and the Professional Footballers’ Association have arranged players’ meetings with England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam to discuss concerns regarding the vaccine.
It is understood in at least one meeting he was asked about an increased risk of heart inflammation as a result of getting vaccinated.
Van-Tam is believed to have told the players there was a small increased risk from the vaccines, but a far greater risk of heart inflammation from catching Covid.
Sources at the Premier League and the PFA also point out that vaccination rates for footballers are above the average for their age group in wider society.
The manager of League One club Morecambe, Stephen Robinson, announced on Friday their entire squad were double vaccinated and that the players were receiving their booster jabs on Tuesday next week.
“We are really counting ourselves lucky on that front,", a déclaré Robinson.
“In terms of the general aspect of football, we have seen a lot of games called off this weekend and it is a concern, hopefully we can get through this period.”