Southgate: 'vaccine programme the only way out of pandemic'
Amid debate over the vaccination status of the England squad, 'Three Lions' manager Gareth Southgate reiterated his stance.
Gareth Southgate has rejected the suggestion that "most" of his England squad are not fully vaccinated against coronavirus and reiterated his support for a vaccine programme.
The subject of wildly varying vaccination rates at Premier League clubs recently prompted a passionate outburst from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
Southgate supports the vaccination programme and Tammy Abraham this week became the first England player to reveal he had been jabbed, but others have been reluctant to speak about the matter publicly.
Asked about most players in the squad and Premier League in general not being fully vaccinated ahead of England's World Cup qualifier in Andorra, Southgate replied: "I'm not sure that's totally accurate, in terms of 'most', but I think everybody knows where I stand on the subject.
"To move out of a pandemic, the only way is a vaccination programme, I think that was essential.
"There is then the complication that there are lots of individual circumstances around that and I understand that some people would be anxious, perhaps.
"When you are in the camp of mine, over 50, there is less to consider really. The odds are more straightforward, it's a much more straightforward decision and I'm a believer that it's the right thing to do.
"I can kind of understand there are other topics we've talked about where everybody would be aligned and we would all have a very clear view as a team.
"With this, it's a little bit more nuanced, lots of people have had the virus, so maybe they feel the antibodies are high in their own bodies.
"Lots of people might have individual medical conditions, some people in the country might have religious reasons. It's a complicated area, my belief is the route out of the pandemic is a vaccination programme.
"I'm yet to hear anybody offer an alternative and there is not a lot more we can say than that."
Southgate says the England team doctor takes the lead when it comes to communicating with the players on the subject.
He added: "Our doctor over the last year and a half has always spoken to the players about the current situation.
"He has spoken in terms of infection in the country to explain what measures will be needed within the camp for us because those over the 18 months have changed.
"So whether masks are needed indoors for us, the level of testing and whatever that is going to be.
"He's always explaining the benefits of the vaccination. But, of course, we have had to deal with many different topics.
"We also have to prepare a team to play football and sometimes there wouldn't be enough hours to discuss all the things that everybody seems to want us to discuss and prepare a team to play a football match.
"We cannot impact the weather in the next two or three days, we could not jab everyone here in two or three days.
"There is a balance to strike. First and foremost, we are here to win football matches."
England are four points clear of Albania at the top of Group I ahead of Saturday's match with Andorra, who are fifth in the standings.
What is expected to be a more testing match with Hungary follows at Wembley on Tuesday.