Spain's sports minister defends vaccination of footballers ahead of European Championship

Vaccine rollout in Catalonia has only reached those aged 45-49 but many players are half that age

Sergio Busquests trains with the Spain squad, June 6, 2021 (Juan Medina/Reuters)
Sergio Busquests trains with the Spain squad, June 6, 2021 (Juan Medina/Reuters) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

June 8, 2021 05:38 PM

The Spanish minister for culture and sports, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, has defended the policy of vaccinating Spain's national football team ahead of the European Championship, which kicks off on Friday.

During a radio interview with Cadena SER on Tuesday morning, Uribes emphasized that it was not all footballers who are getting vaccinated, but rather the Spain team only, because "they are representing us at an international tournament."

A day later on Wednesday, the Spanish health department gave the green light to the squad receiving Covid-19 jabs, as the ministry "assumes the vaccination within the scope of its powers." The army will be in charge of administering the vaccine to them.

The vaccine rollout in Catalonia reached 45- to 49-year-olds on Monday, in other words, people twice as old as many of the players getting protection from Covid-19.

Uribes argued, however, that the Spanish football team was a "justified exception" to the vaccination program, which is based on risk factors and age.

He also pointed out that Olympians and Paralympians representing Spain have been vaccinated ahead of the Tokyo games, which begin on July 23. Those athletes, however, were vaccinated at the expense of the International Olympic Committee.

Spain's captain, the Catalan Sergio Busquets tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, prompting fears that several players would have to quarantine, but PCR tests for the rest of the squad and staff came back negative. 

However, another player in the squad, Diego Llorente, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. 

In the Spanish Congress, Aina Vidal spokesperson of En Comú Podem, strongly criticized the decision to vaccinate the footballers ahead of schedule.

The move also caused a bit of a stir on social media, including comments saying that supermarket workers who have worked in public-facing roles throughout the pandemic "represented" them more than the Spanish football team.

In Catalonia, as of June 7, 2021, 3,052,212 residents have been given the first dose of the vaccine, 39.0% of the total population. Out of those, 1,680,401 have also been administered the second dose (21.5% of the total population). 1,789,935 residents are considered to be fully immunized (22.9%).