Conmebol seeks to be the first international soccer tournament in which footballers and all personnel involved are vaccinated against covid-19. The South American body has made doses of the Coronavac vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Sinovac available to each national team, but it has not made it mandatory and will also seek to shield itself from contagion by implementing sports bubbles. The challenge is to do it in a country where the pandemic has not been appeased. Brazil, under the chaotic management of Jair Bolsonaro, registers more than 17 million infections and more than 476,000 deaths from covid-19, according to the latest official data.
The Copa América will be played in four Brazilian cities: Cuiabá, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Goiânia before the fall of the two host countries Colombia and Argentina. The organizers propose creating a health bubble for each team, in which footballers will be prohibited from leaving the facilities or inviting third parties to the hotels. The penalties for violating health protocols range from a first fine of $ 15,000 to $ 30,000, according to the Conmebol protocol. Argentina, for example, will mount its concentration in Ezeiza, the premises of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) located on the outskirts of Buenos Aires and must be in Brazil one day before each game.
On April 28, the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac donated more than 50,000 vaccines to Conmebol for all the personnel involved. “Conmebol will become the first civil organization in the world to carry out a vaccination that will benefit thousands of families in 10 South American countries,” defended Alejandro Domínguez, president of the South American organization. The World Health Organization validated the emergency use of the Coronavac on June 1. The only countries in South America that have approved Sinovac have been Chile, Ecuador and Brazil.
The federations of Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador and Uruguay received the doses of the vaccine between April and May. And, according to Alejandro Domínguez, Conmebol has immunized to more than 70% of the soccer environment in South America. In Colombia, they reported this Thursday of the start of the vaccination of the team members in a hotel in Barranquilla. Argentine players “will not be vaccinated because it is not mandatory to play the tournament,” responded this Thursday from the Argentine Football Association. The only immunized members of the Argentine squad are those to whom it was applied by their clubs. They are Juan Musso, Rodrigo de Paul and Nahuel Molina, from Udinense, and Leandro Paredes and Ángel di María, from Paris Saint-Germain. “There are five or six players vaccinated, but the rest of the delegation did not. We will do it when it really touches us, “said the national team coach, Lionel Scaloni, earlier in the week.
Most Brazilian players have not yet been vaccinated against covid-19. The idea of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) was to start the vaccination for the game in Asunción, Paraguay, where the Brazilian team faced the hosts in the World Cup qualifiers this Tuesday (8). However, given the uncertainty that the athletes would receive the second dose in good time, the Confederation changed its plans. The Confederation trusted that the soccer delegation was contemplated within the National Immunization Plan (PNI), as was done with the Olympic athletes, which authorized the Brazilian Olympic Committee (COB) to import the vaccines. The recommended time for a second dose is up to 28 days.
Sinovac immunization requires two doses, two to four weeks apart. “This vaccine contains inactivated viruses and, thanks to its storage requirements are very simple, its handling is very easy and it is especially adapted to low-resource environments,” he said. WHO in its report. The Chinese vaccine prevents symptomatic COVID-19 in 51% of those vaccinated and prevents serious illness and hospitalization in 100%. Before each match, everyone involved in the matches must present a vaccination certificate and, in case of not being vaccinated, they must present a PCR test before each trip.
Marcelo Queiroga, Brazilian Minister of Health, reported that Copa América footballers are not required to be vaccinated. “If vaccination were required at this time, they would have no immunity from here to the start of the competition,” the official said.
Most of the soccer players who will play the Copa América do not live on the continent. Such is the case of the Brazilian team that of 20 footballers only three play in the South American country. And of them Neymar, Marquinhos and Paquetá have made public that they were vaccinated against covid-19 on May 21. Venezuelan striker Josef Martínez also received the vaccine last March following an initiative by his club, Atlanta United of the United States. Those already vaccinated will give a boost to health security. Conmebol has announced that there will be no fans in the stadiums.
Outbreaks of coronavirus infection have been presented in recent weeks in national sets. Colombia had to separate Alfredo Morelos a match from the World Cup qualifiers after his positive. In Chile, Arturo Vidal also missed the games to Qatar after catching the infection and is getting ready for the Copa América. In Europe, alarms have been raised by the positives of Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente in the Spanish team a few days after their debut in the Eurocup and that has precipitated the vaccination of the team by the Spanish Government.