Lionel Messi has helped obtain 50,000 Covid vaccines from China for an ambitious but controversial plan to inoculate all of South America’s football players before this summer’s Copa América tournament, Report informs, citing Guardian.

The deal with the Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac was secured after Messi donated three autographed sweatshirts. “Sinovac’s directors manifested their admiration for Lionel Messi, who kindly sent us three shirts for them,” tweeted the Conmebol official Gonzalo Belloso.

The deal, brokered by Uruguay’s conservative president Luis Lacalle Pou, is being questioned in his country, dealing with the world’s most serious Covid levels. Uruguay has the highest number of new daily Covid cases globally, 1084 per million inhabitants, compared with 215 per million in the US and 25 percent in the UK, and vaccines are scarce.

“Just as the president manifested cooperation with Conmebol to vaccinate for the Copa América, he could just as well have the same consideration for Canelones,” the mayor of the Uruguayan city of Canelones, Yamandú Orsi, said. Only 12.4% of his city’s population has been vaccinated so far.

Some of the 50,000 vaccines are going to Argentina’s 26 male first division teams. “The idea is to vaccinate all of Argentina’s first division teams,” said Bellos. “We want all football players to be inoculated before the Copa América because any of them could be called to play.”
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