(Reuters) - England manager Gareth Southgate has called for players to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine as they are risking their health by competing and travelling overseas.
More than half of all adults in England have had their first dose of a vaccine, with the vulnerable, key workers and elderly prioritised during the roll-out.
"Our vaccination programme has been incredible ... nearly all the vulnerable people have had the first vaccine," Southgate said.
"My view would have been we were close to getting to where it would have been acceptable for professional sportsmen to be on the list.
"We are asking them to keep playing, they're having to quarantine when they come back from certain situations, they're having to take some risk going back to families and a lot of them have caught the virus because they've been working.
"I was not suggesting they should have been ahead of key workers and teachers but we are getting close to the points where it could be acceptable.
"Actually, football could afford to save the NHS money by buying vaccines and administering them."
England face San Marino in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifying match on March 25 before facing Albania (March 28) and Poland (March 31).
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)