Home Alternative guide Secrecy surrounding Djokovic’s medical exemption means star can expect a hostile reception on center court

Secrecy surrounding Djokovic’s medical exemption means star can expect a hostile reception on center court


Nine-time Australian Open tennis champion Novak Djokovic confirmed via Social media – after much speculation – that he will indeed participate in the 2022 tournament.

the glue point for him, it was the Victorian government’s requirement that all players be vaccinated, with the aim of reducing public transmission of COVID-19.

A noted anti-vaccine, Djokovic submitted a request for medical exemption from the vaccine warrant, which has now been approved. In tennis parlance, a COVID wildcard will drop Djokovic in Melbourne.

Djokovic’s turbulent history with COVID-19

In June 2020, Djokovic organized a tournament, the Adria visit, in the Balkans, in response to the cancellation of many tennis events during the pandemic. It was organized by the Novak Djokovic Foundation, as “charity tour to help victims of the coronavirus ”.

However, players and officials weren’t wearing masks or social distancing – it was more of a party atmosphere. No wonder then that COVID has broken out among the participants. Djokovic and his wife Jelena were among those infected, with the tournament being abandoned before reaching the final.

Read more: Vaccinated or not, Novak Djokovic should be able to play at the Australian Open

Being young and healthy, Djokovic’s body managed the virus in a way that others – the elderly and immunocompromised – often do not. Six months later, he competed in the 2021 Australian Open, although he was annoyed that he had to follow. quarantine protocols. The imposition did not hamper the Serbian’s performance on the pitch, as he left Melbourne with another major singles title.

Djokovic’s dissatisfaction with the quarantine requirements for the 2021 Australian Open did not hamper his performance, winning him the grand slam event.
AAP / AP / Hamish Blair

For the 2022 tournament, a long quarantine is not required for fully vaccinated players and officials. Yet for Djokovic, the requirement to be vaccinated – as a condition of entry – was something he opposed. Her father, speaking to Serbian media, described the rule as amounts to “blackmail”.

Given that Djokovic has had COVID, what is the rationale for him (and others) to be vaccinated?

In fgeneral, naturally produced antibodies to fight COVID are effective in healthy patients, but their longevity is uncertain. On the other hand, the antibody responses by vaccinations – with boosters – are better understood.

The dual objective is of course to optimize individual protection and reduce the risk of transmission. It is therefore about the health of the community in the broad sense, individuals being supposed to be engaged for a greater good. After all, an unvaccinated person is “about 20 times more likely to give you COVID” than a person who has been completely bitten.

How are medical exemptions assessed?

So what is the process for evaluating a medical exemption for a COVID-19 vaccine? Applications are first evaluated by “a panel of experts of physicians specializing in immunology, infectious diseases and general medicine”. Assuming they see the merit of the submission, a second review is done by a government-appointed panel of experts known as the the independent medical exemptions review committee (IMERP). The job of this panel is to establish that the application meets the Australian Immunization Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI) guidelines on medical immunization exemptions.

ATAGI has two categories of guidelines:

The first is for someone who has experienced a significant medical challenge, such as serious illness or surgery, which is likely to be temporary and can be reviewed six months later.

The second speaks of “drug contraindications” to “a component” of one or more of the three vaccines available in Australia, resulting in either “anaphylaxis” or a “serious adverse event”. Those seeking an exemption for either of these scenarios should “produce evidence provided by a doctor”.

Shrouded in secrecy

So how come one of the fittest athletes in the world got a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine? By design, the public cannot know. Nor, it seems, those who have pronounced on the medical merits of Djokovic’s case. Indeed, the exemption requests were “blind”, which means that those evaluating the request (should) not know who they were evaluating and could therefore be medically objective.

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley revealed that 26 athletes have requested exemptions for the Australian Open this year, “and a handful of them have been granted”.

The decision was supported by the Victoria Department of Health as it was confirmed that the exemptions granted have a “true state of health”.

Read more: Self-titled prima donnas or are they right? Why Australian Open tennis players find difficult lockdown so difficult

Of course, the public cannot automatically know who these people are because this information is protected by privacy conventions and laws. personal health data.

In Djokovic’s case, however, he indirectly revealed that he was not vaccinated, given that he had a medical exemption allowing him to travel to Australia and play in the open. This means that Djokovic also has the same quarantine status like someone who is fully vaccinated. All we ask of him is a COVID-19 test within 24 hours arrive in Australia and self-isolate at their hotel until receiving a negative result. He must then repeat this process 5 to 7 days after entering the country.

Apart from avoiding “high risk settings”Like schools and retirement homes, Djokovic is free to go about his business. In that sense, it’s a game, a set, and a match with the Joker.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley revealed that 26 players and support staff have requested medical exemptions for this year’s Australian Open, a handful of which have been granted.
AAP / Joel Carrett

But the way the medical exemption applies to the Australian public is combustible. Many are enraged by what they see as Djokovic’s pride in his exemption request and, given his power and celebrity status in tennis, their lack of confidence that the right medical decision has been made. socket.

Djokovic could, of course, choose to be frank with the Australian public, explaining to them the medical calamity that allows him to meet the exemption guidelines. But that would invite debate on the scientific merits of his case, so it seems unlikely.

As always, Djokovic has positioned himself as a maverick, a skeptic of medicine and science while being an advocate of alternative therapies, such as his belief in the transformative power of celery juice and the capacity of the water to “react with human emotions”.

“#Novax Djokovic” will have a lot of human emotions to contend with when he enters center court later this month.