Berlin (AFP) – Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich has been told to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by Germany’s acting interior minister after the footballer sparked a lively debate by revealing he had opted out of receiving jabs against the coronavirus.
“Think again and get vaccinated,” Horst Seehofer, a senior figure in Angela Merkel’s outgoing government, told Bild in a message aimed directly at Kimmich.
“You are a personality with exemplary character. And if you get vaccinated, other people will say, ‘then I’ll do it too.’”
Kimmich, who captained Germany in a recent World cup qualifier, sparked a fierce debate in Germany at the weekend when he revealed he opted not to get vaccinated, because of “personal concerns”.
Medical experts have criticised his stance, accusing Kimmich of neglecting his duty as a role model in football-mad Germany.
“Joshua Kimmich is an expert in football matters, not of vaccination and vaccines,” fumed Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany’s Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko).
In a video interview for German daily Bild on Wednesday, Seehofer urged Kimmich to rethink his position as “vaccination is the main weapon in the fight against the pandemic”.
Germany has seen a sharp rise in numbers of those testing positive for the coronavirus with 23,212 new cases reported Wednesday.
Of Germany’s population of 83 million, around 66 percent are fully vaccinated.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority as more than 90 percent of footballers and backroom staff in Germany’s top two leagues are vaccinated, according to figures released Tuesday by the German Football League (DFL).
Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann is currently isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus last week.
Bayern Munich team-mates Thomas Mueller and Manuel Neuer have made it clear they feel Kimmich should get vaccinated and the midfielder has not ruled out doing so in the future.
“There is a very good chance that I will still get vaccinated,” Kimmich said Saturday, “It’s simply that I still have concerns.”
Bayern president Herbert Hainer has said he would be happy if Kimmich gets vaccinated, but pointed out there is no compulsory vaccination in Germany.