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Australian Open’s tournament director Craig Tiley says an official letter from health authorities has granted permission for unvaccinated players to take part in the competition.
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The Australian Open has also said that players on long-term medical exemptions will not be subject to separate quarantine requirements.
Tiley said the anti-vax lobby had been emboldened by a Senate committee hearing on Monday when it was suggested the tournament should be closed due to concerns about unvaccinated players.
“Tournament staff and sporting organisations are constantly engaging with the relevant authorities to ensure we meet all the appropriate health and biosecurity requirements as outlined by the Public Health Association of Australia,” Tiley said.
Tiley said the guidelines were discussed internally, but they were satisfied that any fears about the health of players were unfounded.
“The letter was sent by the AO’s (Association of Tennis Professionals) the medical director Dr Tom Baker just yesterday [Thursday] and it states ‘note that the provision of vaccinations at the Australian Open is predominantly confined to tennis match entrants and this has been agreed with Public Health Association of Australia’,” Tiley said.
“We’ve also decided we would treat the medical exemption the same.”
The anti-vax lobby, mostly run by chiropractors and naturopaths, have alleged for years that vaccines cause childhood disease and that anti-vax activity among parents is undermining Australian society.
Tiley said any philosophical exemptions should be made public.
“I think we need to fully recognise that there’s a heightened level of debate, some of it quite passionate, and we will continue to address it,” he said.
“We will support all health and biosecurity requirements and I think we understand that this time there’s a view that vaccine mandates, or anti-vaccination should be different, and there’s been a view that having multiple exemptions allowed will make the competition safer.”
Tiley said he understood both sides of the debate.
“There’s a whole lot of people who want to protect the public but also understand a role of sport and recreation, particularly this country, in providing an opportunity for people to play sport – not just for the social interaction that it brings with the players but also the health benefits.”
The Tennis Australia chief executive, Craig Tiley, said the anti-vax lobby has been emboldened by a senate committee hearing on Monday when it was suggested the tournament should be closed due to concerns about unvaccinated players. Photograph: Darren Pateman/AAP
Tiley and other tennis executives confirmed last year that a former Australian junior champion Jarryd Felton and another aspiring pro, Timothy Green, who was a cross-code codes player, were among a number of the country’s top up-and-coming players who had experienced health problems including Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Tiley denied the suicide of former world No189 New Zealander Anna Tracy in March 2016, which was linked by some to the perceived negative effect of vaccinating, was linked to anti-vax sentiment, or that it made the sport vulnerable to a boycott.
“Nothing can be further from the truth,” he said. “I know at the time of Anna’s death, we never got that.”