Evan Treacy/INPHO Callum Robinson speaks to the media.

Irish international Callum Robinson reveals he has declined Covid-19 vaccine

The West Brom forward has contracted the virus twice but says it’s his decision not to take the jab, while Stephen Kenny says he has not considered omitting players because they are unvaccinated.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND international Callum Robinson has yet to take a Covid-19 vaccine. 

Robinson told a press conference today he has decided not to take the vaccine, in spite of the fact he has contracted the virus twice. He missed Irish international matches on both occasions: he first tested positive in November last year, meaning he missed Ireland’s friendly with England along with subsequent Nations League games with Wales and Bulgaria. 

He then tested positive again in August of this year, which led him to miss Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Portugal. He returned for the home games with Azerbaijan and Serbia but was not fit enough to start either game. 

Robinson also missed Nations League games at home to Wales and away to Finland in October of last year, as he was identified as a close contact of a separate positive case in the Irish squad. Under current guidelines, unvaccinated players would still be forced to miss games as close contacts of positive cases, with vaccinated players exempt.

“It’s everyone’s personal choice”, Robinson told journalists at a press conference earlier today when asked if he agreed with Jurgen Klopp’s comments that people had a responsibility to take the vaccine. “I can’t tell anyone to get it and I can’t tell people not to.”

When asked as to what his choice is, Robinson replied, “I haven’t been vaccinated, no. That’s my choice at this moment in time.” 

“As I said, it’s obviously annoying that I’ve caught [Covid-19] twice but I haven’t been vaccinated. Further down the line I could change my mind and want to do it but at this moment in time I haven’t been vaccinated, no.

“I just haven’t done it. It’s your personal choice and my choice at this moment in time, I haven’t been vaccinated. I know, as you said, there are managers and people that will want you to do it, which is [their] right, but everyone has their choice and what they want to do. I wouldn’t force people to do it, it’s your choice and your body.

Robinson accepts he has lost international caps because of the virus – “I definitely lost caps because of the coronavirus, which is obviously so annoying that the virus can take caps away from you” – though accepted the point made by a follow-up question, that he would have been far less likely to miss the Portugal game had he decided to take the jab. 

“The other month? Yeah I know, but as I said that was my choice, I haven’t been vaccinated. That’s where I’m at at the moment. Things might change where I want to get vaccinated, I want to do it but at this moment in time I haven’t made that decision.” 

It was then pointed out to Robinson that he was more likely to carry and transmit the virus to those around him given he is not vaccinated, to which he replied, “Obviously we do all our tests, we have to test before we come here. We have had our tests already since I have been here, we are testing every two or three days while we are here. So you could say it’s a risk but it’s a risk for everyone, you can still catch it.” 

Unvaccinated players are undergoing more Covid tests in this Irish international camp than vaccinated players. While all players and staff are tested prior to meeting up with the squad, regardless of their vaccination status, vaccinated players are then exempt from further testing, while the unvaccinated players must be tested again within 72 hours of each game. They must also do an additional test prior to their return home to the UK.

The FAI bear the costs of all the tests that are undertaken. 

Manager Stephen Kenny was later asked for his reaction to the fact Robinson has declined the vaccine.

“I am double vaccinated myself and, ideally of course, we’d like everyone [to be fully vaccinated.]

“I trust the medical experts , I’m not an expert myself in that field, far from it. I trust the medical experts and they recommend that it gets done. It makes it a safer environment for everyone.

“But we’re not in a position where we can insist on it and we have to respect individuals’ rights as well. That is something that we have to learn to live with.”

stephen-kenny-walks-past-the-of-covid-19-regulations-as-he-leaves-the-press-conference James Crombie / INPHO Stephen Kenny leaves his press conference at the FAI training centre at Abbottstown, with Covid guidelines evident on the wall. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Robinson is not the only member of the 26-man Irish squad yet to be vaccinated. Kenny declined to give a precise number but, when pushed, said it “wouldn’t be too many more” than single figures, while Ireland U21 manager Jim Crawford last week revealed seven players in his squad had yet to receive the jab, all of whom are at risk of being unable to play an upcoming European Championship qualifier in Montenegro as the country is on the UK’s red list. 

Kenny was asked what message these facts sent out. 

“Well, I think it would be quite a radical viewpoint to just say ‘Right, whoever is not vaccinated is not being selected in the future’. I’m not aware of anybody who has done that in any sport at the moment.

“So, for me to just come and decide that would be extremely radical.

“The fact that Montenegro is on the UK’s red list is something we can’t get around at the moment. That’s a very difficult situation for Jim Crawford and the 21s team. 

“I think for individual associations to just come together to decide not to select any player that hasn’t got [the vaccine] would create as many problems. They are problems we don’t need to have.” 

While the government require all journalists and supporters travelling from Ireland to Azerbaijan for Saturday’s game to show proof of immunity from Covid-19 along with a negative PCR test, Uefa currently do not require players to show immunity to the virus to play games. 

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