Australian Open forced to address use of unvaccinated players after spate of travel-related health scares

The Australian Open on Friday responded to calls for the tournament to give unvaccinated players extra special dispensation from its public health guidelines after a series of travel-related diseases struck Australian players on the way to the event this year.

The tournament’s corporate sponsor, Telstra, has continued to warn that unvaccinated players endanger the health of others, however, and the Australian Open issued a statement to media outlets outlining the health guidelines that the tournament is expected to follow.

The Grand Slam for men and women contested in Melbourne each year was poised to be the venue for most major concern of public health organizers, with the two-week tournament beginning at the end of January. Australia’s players at that time had brought sickness to the tournament.

Some notable players had to be replaced at the Australian Open or withdrawn from the tournament: The current men’s champion, Roger Federer, pulled out with a back injury as did Steve Johnson, who did not travel because of swine flu. The women’s players dropping out were former player Samantha Stosur and current player Ashleigh Barty.

Australian Open officials said Friday that the tournament is following a public health policy regarding vaccinations and that it has not changed its policy from last year. Still, the statement emphasized the strict nature of the policy to prevent unvaccinated players from entering the country.

“The Australian Open development policy provides for the onsite and in-competition provision of medical care and support to players with match-related illness and injury,” the statement said. “This includes providing in-competition protection for players’ futures prospects.

“The Australian Open policy has not changed from last year.

“During this year’s tournament, the Australian Open will continue to work with all parties to maintain the highest standards of medical care for the players.”

The Australian Open spokesman also pointed out that the Tournament’s E-Health Team has recommended influenza vaccines for its players, the winner of last year’s tournament, Novak Djokovic, having received one.

Neither Telstra nor the tournament had had any discussions about adding any special arrangements for unvaccinated players, who would be required to be unvaccinated in order to play in the tournament.

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