A host of football players and pundits – past and present – have today hailed the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme as the ‘best defence’ of 2021.
Football legends Chris Kamara, Eniola Aluko, Chris Hughton, Carlton Cole, Jules Breach and Harry Redknapp appear in the short film, choosing their best defenders of the season so far – with the COVID-19 vaccination programme coming out on top – and encouraging the public to take-up the jab when offered.
The film’s release comes as more than 20 million UK adults have received both doses of their Covid-19 vaccine. More than 36 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the Covid vaccine.
As part of the government’s plans to tackle rising cases of the B1.617.2 variant of concern first identified in India, appointments for a second dose of a vaccine will be brought forward from 12 to 8 weeks for the remaining people in the top nine priority groups yet to receive their second dose.
Strengthened surge testing, genome sequencing and enhanced contact tracing measures are also being deployed across the North West to control the spread of the variant.
Sky Sports presenter and football pundit Chris Kamara said: “I would encourage anyone who is offered the jab to step forward to take it – I already have, and it was so easy. It’s the best way back to doing the things we love, not least getting back to watching football the way we know it.”
Director of Women’s Football at Aston Villa and former England player Eniola Aluko said: “It’s great to see more and more people receiving the vaccine, especially now younger people are becoming eligible.
“Vaccines are encouraged and advisable to go back to a more normal way of life, especially so we can make sure that we see fuller football stadiums and get back to the sport as we know it.
“If you receive your appointment, make your choice to go and you will be protecting yourself and your friends and family too.”
Adults aged 38 and over can now book their Covid-19 vaccination via nhs.uk/coronavirus
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am hugely grateful to Harry Redknapp, Chris Kamara, Eniola Aluko, Chris Hughton, Carlton Cole and Jules Breach for lending their support to help get the UK vaccinated.
“When offered, it’s vital people book in their jab – they truly are our greatest defence against COVID-19 and will help us get even more fans back watching the sports they love.”
The players have joined the ranks of other high-profile celebrities who have supported the COVID-19 vaccination programme, including Sir Lenny Henry and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.
The success of the vaccination programme has paved the way for introducing fans back into stadiums. Following the successful Carabao Cup Final which saw 8,000 fans attend in April, football fans were once again permitted to Wembley Stadium on Saturday 15 May for the FA Cup Final as part of the government’s Events Research Programme.
With 20,000 in attendance, the FA Cup Final is the largest pilot event to date, forming part of the government’s plan to safely get mass participation events back this summer.
Vaccinated people are far less likely to get COVID-19 with symptoms. Vaccinated people are even more unlikely to get serious COVID-19, to be admitted to hospital, or to die from it and there is growing evidence that vaccinated people are less likely to pass the virus to others.
Data from Public Health England’s real-world study shows the vaccines are already having a significant impact in the UK, saving more than 11,700 lives in England by the end of April and preventing 33,000 hospitalisations.
New PHE analysis shows that individuals who receive a single dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have approximately 80 percent lower risk of death with COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated individuals. The report also shows protection against death from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rises from approximately 80 percent after one dose to 97 percent after two doses.
A separate new PHE report provides further evidence that the vaccine is highly effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation, especially in older ages. For the over 80s, it is estimated that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduce the risk of hospitalisation by 93 percent.