England's World Cup hopes thrown into disarray after it emerges at least five players are refusing Covid vaccine
ENGLAND’S World Cup hopes have been thrown into disarray after it emerged that at least five players are refusing to be vaccinated.
Three rebels are senior members of the Three Lions squad who starred at the Euros this summer.
England can all but seal qualification with wins against lowly Andorra and Hungary this month.
But organisers of next year’s Qatar World Cup plan to ban all unvaccinated players.
The rebels have given a string of “nonsense” reasons for not having the vaccine, a source revealed.
One footballer claimed he is too “young and fit” to be affected by the virus — despite evidence it can damage the health of younger people, who can also spread it.
Another refused after buying into bizarre “conspiracy theories” that the jab is a tool for governments to spy on people.
The others are said to have been pressured against having it by their anti-vaxxer Wags.
At least five of manager Gareth Southgate’s squad are unjabbed — and the revolt could derail his preparations for next year’s World Cup.
The players are also on a collision course with organisers of the Qatar finals, who plan to ban all unvaccinated players.
Three of the five rebels are senior players with a string of honours who had starring roles at the Euros this summer.
They are due to fly to Andorra next week as part of the England “Covid bubble” ahead of their next qualifying match.
The trip to the Pyrenees will coincide with the easing of travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated.
But in a move likely to spark fury, the unjabbed five will be given special exemption that will allow them to train and play through quarantine.
Insiders fear it could cause a rift in the England camp — after Southgate fronted a vaccination campaign in July.
In a video message to the nation he said: “There’s no doubt the vaccination programme is our best route out of this problem.”
Southgate said he felt lending his support was “responsible” but later revealed: “Of all the things I’ve received abuse for over the summer — of which there’s been several — that’s the one I’ve received the most abuse over.”
He and club bosses are said to be battling misinformation.
A source said: “Dressing rooms and Whatsapp groups are awash with anti-vax conspiracy theories. Many senior players have been duped by online arguments and myths against the vaccine.
“And they’re refusing to change course. If Qatar press ahead with plans to demand Covid vaccine passports from fans and players, it’s going to come to a head.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam has been drafted in to address the jab benefits and dispel the myths with a special video message distributed via an app to all players.
But one club doctor said: “We’ve got senior players, intelligent men, coming out with all sorts of nonsense. One told me he didn’t need the vaccine because he could boost his immunity by taking vitamins.
“Some of the stuff they’re reading — and believing — on the internet is incredible. Players are saying it will make them infertile, that it's part of a plot involving Bill Gates, that the pandemic is just propaganda.
“The real problem is they’re also polluting the minds of younger players.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “It’s disappointing to hear there may be some footballers unwilling to get vaccinated, perhaps due to misinformation online.”
An FA spokesman said: “This is a private matter for individuals and their respective clubs as employers. Our preparations for the forthcoming internationals continue as normal.”
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