The world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against Covid-19, will compete in the upcoming Australian Open despite the tournament’s vaccine requirement: here’s what medical exemptions are generally accepted by the tournament’s governing body.
The most recent guidelines set forth by the Australian Technical Advisory Group On Immunisation (ATAGI), which were the basis for Djokovic’s exemption, list only a handful of valid medical exemptions for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Among those exemptions are a PCR-confirmed positive test result for the virus within the last six months and an “acute medical condition” such as “undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness.”
Djokovic has not been reported to have tested positive for the virus within that time frame, or had any major medical conditions or procedures recently, and said on Instagram Tuesday that he had received an “exemption permission.”
Two rarer ATAGI-approved exemptions are a “serious adverse event” that was attributable to a prior Covid-19 vaccine dose without a valid alternative and individuals who pose a “risk to themselves or others” during vaccination, such as people with “underlying developmental or mental health disorders.”
Tennis Australia, the country’s governing body for the sport, said Tuesday that Djokovic was given a medical exemption from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine following the recommendations of “two separate independent panels of medical experts,” one of which was appointed by the Victorian Department of Health, based on the exemption guidelines set forth by the ATAGI.
Djokovic has long attracted controversy regarding his attitude and actions toward Covid-19. He said that he was “opposed to vaccination” and “wouldn’t want to be forced” to receive a jab in April 2020, and he tested positive for the virus shortly after being seen at a Serbian nightclub in June 2020. Djokovic’s status for the Australian Open was put in serious doubt after he declined to disclose his vaccination status and pulled out from last month’s ATP Cup in Australia.
Many figures in the tennis world questioned whether Tennis Australia’s decision to grant Djokovic an exemption was due to his stardom. Jamie Murray, the 19th-ranked men’s doubles player, said Tuesday, “I think if it was me that wasn’t vaccinated I wouldn’t be getting an exemption.”
What To Watch For
How other Grand Slam tournaments treat Djokovic and other players’ vaccination statuses. The 2022 Australian Open is the first Grand Slam to require vaccination against Covid-19 for players, though the U.S. Open required spectators to be fully vaccinated and Wimbledon required proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result for fans last year. The French Open will be the next Grand Slam tournament, beginning in May.