The Serbian was set to defend his title, making it his record 21st Grand Slam title, back in January but has faced a series of problems when trying to enter the country. Now, his vaccination status has become public knowledge and he has been forced to talk about his situation.
Australia has been known for its strict covid restrictions and lockdown rules since the start of the pandemic. Currently, the law for people entering the country requires that they be double-vaccinated or that they complete a 14-day quarantine on entry. The Australian government has continuously stated that no one is exempt from their vaccination laws. Djokovic was originally granted a medical exemption, requested anonymously to avoid taking advantage of his fame, because he had a positive test on 16th December. This sparked public outrage in Australia as citizens have had to face some of the toughest restrictions of any other country over the past two years of the pandemic. The tennis player was detained at the border and his visa revoked until an appeal was made and the judge overturned the decision. However, soon after, the government went back again to revoke it, saying it was in the public interest.
Djokovic has had no vaccinations, stating he believes in the "freedom to choose what you put into your body", which is especially important as an athlete. He initially kept quiet about his views because of his right to keep medical records private, but now he wants to dispel wrong conclusions. In a BBC interview, he went as far as to say he is willing to pay the price of not going to future tournaments and even forgo the rest of his career because he feels so strongly about it. The athlete said, ‘I’m trying to be in tune with my body as much as I possibly can’.
The World Health Organisation has said that the vaccine reduces transmission rates of the Delta variant by up to 40 percent, whilst it can reduce transmission by up to 60 percent in previous variants (we await further research on the full effect it has on the new Omicron variant). As an athlete who travels to various parts of the world in quick succession, Novak Djokovic has a much higher chance of catching the virus and spreading it to multiple areas. He has already proven himself irresponsible when he met a French journalist and removed his mask for a photoshoot despite being positive for Covid at the time.
It is a little unclear what aspect of the vaccine he has an issue with entering his body. All the vaccines contain mRNA for the virus which he has been subject to already since he has had the virus twice. The other ingredients are stabilising agents mostly found in common childhood vaccines, and they are rigorously researched to reduce/prevent side effects from them. Given this and the travel requirements of his job, it is essential that he at the very least respects the rules of the country he is entering. In this case, the need to complete a 14-day quarantine period should have been taken into account. It is necessary to understand the consequences of actions taken just as he sees there are consequences to taking the vaccine – he must choose one set over the other and accept what comes. He has now accepted the decision of the Australian government, though somewhat begrudgingly. We await further explanations to give full clarity on his decision.