Fifa President Gianni Infantino on Monday ruled out calling for priority vaccination of professional footballers against Covid-19 to facilitate competitions, mirroring his position on that of the International Olympic Committee.
“The priority, in terms of vaccines, is obviously that people at risk and caregivers are vaccinated first,” said the head of the global body, invited to the weekly press briefing of the World Organization of health (WHO).
Coming to support the WHO campaign for equitable access to vaccination, the Italian-Swiss leader stressed that football players were “not a priority audience”, even though the pandemic threatens sports calendars.
“It is possible that we recommend vaccination at a time, but all this will of course be done by respecting the order of distribution of the vaccines”, insisted Gianni Infantino.
While most matches are currently held in empty stands, the FIFA boss has been optimistic that the next World Cup in Qatar will be played “in packed stadiums” in November and December 2022.
“By then the Covid-19 must have been eradicated. If we are still not there, I think we will have a much more serious problem than the World Cup,” he added.
The debate on a possible “prioritization” of athletes has gained momentum in recent weeks, as doubts mounted on the holding of the Tokyo Olympics, from July 23 to August 8, as well as the Euro. football in June and July.
But the IOC refuses to ask for priority access to the vaccine for the participants in the Olympics, which would have posed both practical and ethical difficulties since the vaccination campaign begins at a very uneven pace depending on the country.
The Olympic body nevertheless encourages athletes “to be vaccinated in their country of residence, in accordance with national guidelines”, once the doses “are available to a wider public”.
In charge of organizing the Euro in twelve different countries, a headache given the traffic restrictions, UEFA postponed until April the time to specify its health measures, and has not yet raised the issue of vaccines.