Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich’s revelation that the defender is yet to be vaccinated has found itself in the centre of debate in Germany over the merits of vaccination against the coronavirus.

The 26-year-old footballer, tipped as a future captain of the German national team for his leadership qualities, confirmed over the weekend that he is yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19 because of his own concerns about “a lack of long-term studies” into the effects of the vaccines, Associated Press reported.

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However, Kimmich was quick to say that he was still considering it and that it was “very possible that I will get vaccinated.”

Following his remarks, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who have consistently opposed measures against the coronavirus, welcomed his statements while they led to dismay among those who are banking on vaccines as a route back toward normalcy at a time when infection rates are climbing again in Germany.

Germany’s public health institute reported that just over 55 million people, or 66.2% of the population, were fully vaccinated. Children under 12 years old are not being vaccinated.

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However, the player denied being opposed to vaccines.

“I think that’s a shame about the debate, that it’s only about being vaccinated or not vaccinated and if you’re not, then you’re automatically a COVID-denier or vaccine-opponent,” Kimmich said, AP reported. “But there are other people at home, I think, who are simply having thoughts — whatever the reasons are. I think they should be respected, especially if they are sticking to the guidelines.”

Due to his engagement in the “We Kick Corona” fundraising drive with Bayern Munich and Germany teammate Leon Goretzka in March 2020, Kimmich’s unwillingness to be vaccinated startled many.

Talking about the fundraiser, Kimmich said, “We also donated to UNICEF, who made vaccines available. The point was that there are also countries that do not have access to vaccines.

“I think everyone should make the decision for themselves and it cannot be that someone has no access. Because if you make the decision to do so, then you should do everything you can to ensure that they can get the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday that there were “clear and convincing answers” to Kimmich’s questions from national and international experts, and that he hoped that “Kimmich lets all this information work on him and then maybe he can decide in favor of the vaccination.”

With inputs from the Associated Press