Social media influence & side effect fears: Why some footballers are still vaccine hesitant

For months, King's Lynn Town left-back Tyler Denton had decided against getting the Covid jab.

Having read various conspiracy theories on social media, he made a call that the vaccine wasn't for him - despite contracting Covid himself in the past.

However, he's now had a change of heart.

Having done further research, coupled with some gentle encouragement from his mum who works in the NHS, he's now planning to book his first jab in the next few weeks.

King's Lynn Town left-back Tyler Denton talks to ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"They (people on social media) were saying it's not fully tested and you don't know what's going to happen in years to come," Denton told ITV News Anglia.

"I think I've been a bit naive in the sense of everyone my age on social media is saying: 'The big, bad vaccine.'

"I thought: 'Oh yeah, I'm invincible. I've survived it and everything's going to be OK.' But having seen people lose their lives and the NHS suffer as much as it has done I think it's vital that we all play a part and do eventually get vaccinated."

Denton's story is a familiar one in the world of football.

Authorities are concerned about the reluctance of some players to get vaccinated, and it's understood the Premier League recently sent out an email to clubs expressing their concern, that according to their data, only seven of the 20 squads were more then 50% vaccinated.

The league are also considering whether to "reward" clubs who have a high vaccine uptake.

At King's Lynn, 45% of their first squad are fully vaccinated, while another 10% have had at least one jab.

However, the remaining 45% haven't been vaccinated at all.

Carol Holland, King's Lynn Town's head of medical. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Carol Holland is the head of the medical department at the Linnets. She says the club are advising players to get the jab, but will never force them to do something they're not comfortable with.

"Social media seems to play a big part in it, what they read on Twitter and Facebook and they sort of read that as gospel rather than listening to the scientific advice from the medical profession," she said.

"I can't go against their views at the end of the day, it is their own decisions."

In a bid to try and dispel some of the social media theories, deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan van Tam has produced a special video which has been designed to give players the scientific facts they need to put their minds at rest.

Professor Jonathan van Tam. Credit: PA

Other factors are also at play as well though.

Some players are concerned about the potential side-effects of the vaccine, which could see them lose their place in the team if they fall ill, while others feel they are fit and healthy and are unlikely to become seriously unwell even if they do contract the virus.

That's not something Dr Nick Jenkins from the West Suffolk Hospital agrees with though.

He says he often has to care for young people at his hospital - the vast majority of whom haven't been vaccinated.

  • Watch an extended interview with Dr Nick Jenkins

"Let's be clear, young people do die from Covid," he said.

"Not many, and not often, thankfully, but it does happen. The patients who we're seeing being admitted to the hospital now are the ones who've not had the vaccine."

Whatever the reason, there is no legal requirement to get the vaccine and it remains a personal choice.

Linnets defender Ross Barrows is one of the players at the club who is double vaccinated, but he says he would never look down on any of his teammates who have decided not to get immunised yet.

"I think it should be down to personal preference and it comes down to a little bit of human rights really," said Barrows.

"You can kind of choose what you want to put into your body but it's definitely down to a personal choice and if players don't want to do it and want to protect their careers, they've got every right to."