Health, Sports

“anti-vaxxer”: German footballer Joshua Kimmich’s vaccine hesitancy dismays experts

GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,Joshua Kimmich denied he was an "anti-vaxxer" after expressing unease about long-term side effects

GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,Joshua Kimmich denied he was an “anti-vaxxer” after expressing unease about long-term side effects

Joshua Kimmich is one of Germany’s superstar football players, a role model who’s assisted charities that help people striving during the corona virus epidemic.

Yet recently, Joshua Kimmich’s pronouncements about the security of Covid-19 vaccinations have endangered the shine off his image.

Last weekend, the Bayern Munich midfielder, 26, firmly established reports he had not yet had a vaccine over worries about long-term studies.

“I am of course aware of my responsibility,”

Kimmich told broadcaster Sky Sport after a match on Saturday.

“I follow all hygiene measures and get tested every two to three days. Everyone should make the decision for themselves.”

Yet, Kimmich firmly declared he was not a

“Covid denier or an anti-vaxxer”.

He said, “There is a very good chance that I will still get vaccinated,” “It’s simply that I still have some concerns.”

Those worries have been addressed by re-known German health specialists and scientists who have attacked Kimmich for not setting a good example and misinterpreting how vaccines work.

They sated that ten years of research proves that long-term health problems are extremely unlikely after receiving a vaccination of any kind. Given this, one principal medical ethicist proposed Kimmich had been the victim of Covid false information online.

With corona virus infections on the increase and jab uptake slowing down, there are concerns that Kimmich’s remarks could urge vaccine hesitation in Germany.

‘That’s not how it works’

Since Covid vaccines are comparatively new, researchers have not had time study them over a long period – but that doesn’t mean they’re not protected from harm.

Covid jabs have been given to a very large number of people, as well as being tested robustly in clinical trials.

That’s why specialists highlight the advantages of vaccination against Covid exceeded the risks for the vast majority of people.

While Covid jabs will continue to be observed for safety by authorities, the chance of them causing serious side effects in the short or long term is considered low.

A professor of immunology at Technical University Dortmund, Carsten Watzl, said the belief that vaccines could have long-term side effects was a common “misunderstanding”.

“Say: I let myself get vaccinated and perhaps next year I will have some grave side-effects. That’s not how it works,”

Mr Watzl told the public broadcaster ARD.

“The side-effects of a vaccine always appear directly after the vaccination, within a few weeks.”

Health authorities worldwide have come to the same agreement. For example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says

“serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination”.

“Millions of people have received Covid-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected,” the CDC says.

More on Covid-19 vaccines:

EXPLAINER:How do we know they are safe?

STUDY:Vaccine complications dwarfed by virus risks

WATCH:’We need to talk about misleading anti-vax claims’

Thomas Mertens, The head of Germany’s expert panel on vaccine use, said multiple studies have shown long-term side effect

“do not exist, or are an extreme rarity”.

“Joshua Kimmich is surely a recognized expert on football issues, but not an expert on vaccination,” Mr Mertens said.

Dr Alena Buyx, chairwoman of the German Ethics Council – a government advisory panel – believed Kimmich had

“been given false information and been badly advised”.

Dr Alena Buyx informed Sky Sport, there are still many people

“who have questions or who have heard something wrong, as was perhaps the case with Joshua Kimmich”, “You have to show these people sources they can trust.”

Competing against vaccine hesitancy

While Kimmich’s remarks have become a major discussion in Germany, his vaccine hesitancy is far from unique in the sporting world.

World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic is a important case in point.

GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,Novak Djokovic has previously said he was opposed to mandatory vaccinations against Covid-19

Last year, Djokovic declared he was “opposed to vaccination” before a contentious exhibition tour in Serbia and Croatia. The Serbian tennis star and three other players thereafter tested positive for the virus.

He later firmly maintained that his comments about vaccinations had been exaggerated in the media.

“My issue here with vaccines is if someone is forcing me to put something in my body. That I don’t want,” he said.

Worries have been raised about vaccine hesitation and doubt in other sports worldwide, from athletics to basketball.

In the English Premier League, the anxiety has been very severe. As of last week, only 68% of players were fully vaccinated against Covid, the league stated.

That’s way short of the figures in other countries like Germany and Italy, whose top football leagues say over 90% of their players are completely vaccinated.

Why are some footballers vaccine hesitant

Vaccinations are not mandatory for Premier League players, nor those of Germany’s top flight, the Bundesliga. Still given the poster-boy status of Kimmich, who not long ago captained the German national team, his stance on vaccination has distressed even his admirers.

Last year, Kimmich co-founded the We kick Corona initiative by giving money to support vaccination Crusade and charitable projects.

In spite of this, Kimmich is one of five Bayern Munich players who are not vaccinated, the Bild newspaper announced.

‘He will make the right decision’

Kimmich’s club has encouraged its players and staff to get jabbed, while senior leaders have spoken out about the matter.

Oliver Kahn, Bayern CEO said the club could only approve vaccinations to players and had done so through several Crusades. All the same, he said the club regards players who have a

“different opinion”.

The president of Bayern, Herbert Hainen, repeated those views.

“FC Bayern supports the vaccination campaign,” he said. “At the end of the day there is no compulsory vaccination with us. It is the decision of each individual, and you have to accept that.”

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the club’s former CEO, said he knew Kimmich to be an

“extremely responsible”

person who would very likely

“make the right decision at some point”.

Kimmich donned the captain’s armband for Germany in its 2-1 victory over Romania earlier this month

Kimmich expressed his doubt at a time when rising corona virus infections are showing apparent probability of a return to tougher restrictions in Germany and other places in Europe.

On Monday, Germany officially announced 6,573 new infections and 17 deaths over the previous 24-hour period.

In the mean time, the vaccination rate per 100 people continues to decrease after peaking in June. About 65% of Germany’s population have been entirely vaccinated.

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Tennis bodies urge hesitant players to get vaccine

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