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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Novak Djokovic won’t play in Australian Open over vaccination ‘blackmail’

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The 2022 Australian Open is set to begin on Jan. 17, and it might take place without one of tennis’ biggest stars. Srdjan Djokovic, father of Novak Djokovic appeared on Serbian TV over the weekend to go on a mammoth rant against Australian officials, who are requiring all players at the tournament to be vaccinated prior to entering the country.

Srdjan’s comments began with the common refrain that vaccination is a personal choice, and that the Australian Open shouldn’t have a say in what his son does with his body. Then, things went out the window.

“As far as vaccines and non-vaccines are concerned, it is the personal right of each of us whether we will be vaccinated or not. No one has the right to enter that intimacy, it is guaranteed by the constitution. Everyone has the right to decide on their health.”

While yes, everyone does have a right to make their own decisions, that does not apply to having an unfettered right to travel to Australia to voluntarily take part in a tennis tournament in the middle of a pandemic without following the public health mandates for entering as a foreign national.

Srdjan went on to say the rules requiring players to become vaccinated were “blackmail.” Martin Pakula, sports minister for the Australian state of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held, fired back in response.

“If you’re a visiting international tennis player, or a visiting sportsman of any kind, it’s about your responsibility to the community that you are being welcomed into, and that’s why we are asking those international tennis stars to follow the same requirements as Victorians are. It’s not about blackmail, it’s about making sure the Victorian community is protected.”

Pakula added that he hoped Djokovic would play in the open, but said it was his choice if he elected not to be vaccinated and decide not to play.

Most bizarrely, the issue for the Djokovic family seems to have less to do with the concept of vaccination, but which vaccine they are allowed to get. As it stands Australia is officially recognizing nine different international vaccines.

  • Comirnaty (Pfizer)
  • Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca)
  • Covishield (AstraZeneca)
  • Spikevax (Moderna)
  • Takeda (Moderna)
  • Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Coronavac (Sinovac)
  • BBIBP-CorV (Sinopharm) (for 18-60 years old)
  • Covaxin (Bharat Biotech)

These do not include the Russian “Sputnik” vaccine, whose efficacy rates have been questioned by the global health community, but does include the Coronoavac and BBIBP-CorV, both of which were developed in China.

Despite it being widely accepted that the Russian vaccine has been critical at slowing hospitalization, it is statistically inferior to other vaccines on the market. Still, Srdjan Djokovic says that his son would play, if Australia recognized the inferior vaccine, calling out Australian Open director Craig Tiley.

“What is a recognized vaccine, Mr. Craig? Russian vaccine is not recognized? According to our criteria, only Chinese and Russian are recognized. The libertarian world has 90 percent of the world’s population. For us, it is Russian and Chinese. Recognize them and we will vaccine, with pleasure.”

I’m going to chalk up calling Russia and China “libertarian” to bad translation, because I refuse to believe anyone actually believes that — however, it’s a separate discussion. Bizarrely Srdjan is calling on Australia to recognize the Chinese vaccines, which they already do.

Right now there’s a standoff between the Djovokics and the Australian Open. There is absolutely zero chance Australia changes its international vaccine guidelines in the middle of the emergent Omicron variant just so the world No. 1 can play in the Open.

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