A number of Belgium players have reportedly turned down the chance to receive a Covid-19 vaccination ahead of Euro 2020 over fears the side effects could wreck their hopes at the tournament.
The country’s government had given the green light for players to receive the jab, with the Belgian FA insisting it was a ‘very important’ move as they bid to win their first-ever trophy as a nation.
A handful of stars including Toby Alderweireld, Timothy Castagne, Thibaut Courtois, and Thomas Vermaelen are all said to have received their jabs.
But with the team seen as one of the favourites to win the competition, some of the players refused to take the Pfizer jab in case it hinders their performance, according to Belgian outlet HLN.
The side effects of the vaccine include tiredness, headaches, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever – which can affect more than one in ten people.
Professor Dirk Ramaekers, who heads Belgium’s Task Force COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, allayed fears about the refusals to be vaccinated.
He said a number of players had already received their jabs, while some would prefer to receive theirs after Euro 2020 has ended
‘A number of Red Devils had already been vaccinated abroad, a number of them have recently experienced Covid,’ he said.
‘The latter have antibodies and prefer to be vaccinated after the tournament. Of those who were not vaccinated, the vast majority had themselves vaccinated upon arrival in our country.
Ramaekers said the squad and coach Roberto Martinez were ‘very pro-vaccination’ and that only ‘one or two’ players do not wish to receive their jabs.
‘I look at it positively and notice that the players – with guys like Mertens, Lukaku and Hazard in the lead – just like the association and the coach are very pro-vaccination,’ he added.
‘Within the group, the majority is protected. The group protection is great because those boys will live in a highly isolated environment for the coming weeks. On the field, all participating teams will protect their players as much as possible with vaccination and testing.’
Belgium, who are ranked as the number one international team in world football are set to begin their Euro campaign against Russia in St Petersburg on June 12.