England rugby union international Henry Slade has become the first high-profile British sportsperson to turn down the coronavirus vaccination.
Slade, 28, says he "doesn't agree" with the jab despite being diabetic and therefore in an at-risk group in the eyes of vaccine rollout bosses.
The outside centre – who has won 38 caps for England – claims he has all the protection he needs from Covid-19 as a result of the regular testing conducted by his club, Exeter Chiefs.
Despite Diabetes UK saying they "strongly encourage" anyone with the condition to get vaccinated, Slade questions whether the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-manufactured jabs can be considered trustworthy.
"I am not going to have a vaccine. I don’t agree with it all," the Plymouth native told the Daily Telegraph .
Slade added: "I don’t think you can trust it, can you? I don’t think it [vaccination against Covid] has been going long.
"There is no way of knowing what could happen with it in the future. I am perfectly fit and healthy. I don’t fancy it at all."
Slade's concerns over the vaccine are unfounded based on the resounding success of the United Kingdom's rollout so far.
Nonetheless, Slade – who stands at six foot three inches and weighs over 15 stone – cited his previous bad experiences with vaccines as he explained his decision to turn down the NHS call-up.
"We test three, four times a week anyway, so you know if you have something," said Slade.
"There is no way of knowing what it could do. I have had vaccines in the past and have fallen pretty unwell with them afterwards
"I don’t know if that has anything to do with the diabetes or not. I am going to stay away from this one."
Slade has been criticised for refusing the jab, with fans posting on social media to express their dismay at his decision.
One wrote: "Seriously bad judgment call by a professional rugby player, whose wages get paid by the vaccinated masses who can now come and watch the sport again. I’m assuming @EnglandRugby will not be picking him this summer, to avoid the jeopardy risk he’d introduce to camp?"
Another added: "Henry Slade, a prominent rugby player says the vaccine isn’t safe as he has type 1 diabetes. A few things strike me here. 1) I have numerous friends who have diabetes who’ve had the jab and they’re fine 2) I never knew egg chasers were expert epidemiologists 3) he’s wrong."
Some elite sportspeople may be unwilling to take the vaccine because they cannot afford to be out of action for too long.
Should Slade be prevented from representing England? Comment below.
When this was put to Slade, he responded: "It isn’t really because of that, it is because of my body and my life, I guess, I just think there hasn’t been anywhere near enough testing to deem it safe."
Slade played a key role as Exeter won a stunning Champions Cup-Premiership double last year, although his side's triumphs occurred behind closed doors due to the pandemic.
He is relishing fans returning to stadiums en masse, which has been made possible by the millions of vaccines being injected into arms each week.
"As players over the last year, we have gotten used to playing without fans and generating our own energy, but that energy you get off the fans is something you can’t really replicate," said Slade.
He added: "Hopefully sooner rather than later there will be full crowds with no social distancing, no masks and all that stuff. Hopefully we can do it again and have the fans experience it with us."
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