(CNN Español) — The participation of the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open 2022 has caused controversy in recent days and discontent among Australians after he received a immunization exemption. In addition, the controversy has opened a debate about compliance with vaccination mandates around the world and what exceptions are valid for not getting vaccinated.
The Australian Government Department of Health has a list of reasons to obtain the coronavirus non-vaccination permit that anyone traveling to the country can adhere to. The guidelines were developed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (Atagi, for its acronym in English) and each submission is reviewed by a panel of experts who decide whether or not the applicant meets the requirements.
These are the exceptions to the vaccine, according to Atagi:
For a covid-19 mRNA vaccine:
- Inflammatory heart disease in the last 3 months (myocarditis or pericarditis)
For all other COVID-19 vaccines:
- Acute serious medical condition (undergoing major surgery or hospital admission for a serious illness). These are generally time-limited conditions.
- SARS-CoV-2 infection confirmed by PCR, in which vaccination can be postponed up to 6 months after infection. Vaccination should be postponed for 90 days in people who have received anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma therapy.
- Any serious adverse event attributed to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with no other identified cause, and no acceptable alternative vaccine available.
- If the vaccinated pose a risk to themselves or others during the vaccination process, they can grant a temporary exemption from the vaccine.
Djokovic’s arguments for not getting vaccinated
Djokovic had received a temporary visa on November 18 to participate in the Australian Open. On the 29th of that month, according to a letter leaked by Australian mediaHealth Minister Greg Hunt wrote to Open Director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley that a Covid-19 infection alone in the past six months without a full vaccination did not meet entry requirements. to the country without quarantine.
Tennis Australia announced in a statement in early January that Djokovic had received a medical exemption from vaccination. However, when the tennis player arrived in Melbourne on January 5 to play the Open, the Immigration authorities, who ultimately verify the documents that support the visas, reported an irregularity in his medical exemption permit.
During a court hearing, Djokovic’s defense said that this exemption had been granted on the grounds that the tennis player had natural immunity after being infected with covid-19, according to a test that came back positive on December 16.
The arguments of both the defense and the government focused essentially on the guidelines issued by the Atagi.
The lawyer Nick Wood, who represents the Serbian tennis player, argument that Atagi’s advice states that a past covid infection provides at least six months of natural protection, “and can therefore be considered a temporary exemption from vaccination.”
Finally, the judge of the Federal Courts of Australia, Anthony Kelly, ordered on Monday the immediate release of Djokovic from the hotel where he had been staying since last Thursday after the government canceled his visa when trying to enter the country without being vaccinated. The judge’s decision was based mainly on the handling of the situation by the Australian Border Force (ABF), which initially gave him a deadline to submit the documentation, but then shortened that time without giving him an opportunity. Djokovic to plead his case.
However, a source with knowledge of the case told CNN that the ABF has opened an investigation into whether the Serbian tennis player lied in the information he provided to Tennis Australia. Court documents show that the association took care of filling out the medical exemption form with information Djokovic himself gave him, as determined by an ABF officer at Melbourne airport.
The investigation by the Australian authorities comes at a time when the Ministry of Immigration considers the possibility of cancel Djokovic’s visa again who, after the verdict, made his intention to compete clear and has returned to the courts to train. The authorities consider that having suffered a contagion within the six months prior to entering the country does not exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated.
Djokovic’s press team did not respond to a CNN request for comment.
“I want to stay and try to compete in the Australian Open. I flew here to play in one of the biggest events there is in front of some amazing fans,” wrote Djokovic, who previously voiced opposition to vaccine mandates, on his Twitter account.
While, at the news of the investigation opened by the ABF in Australia, Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, said on Tuesday that would “a clear violation of the rules” of his country that tennis star would have participated at a public event if I had been infected.
“However, I don’t know when he actually got the results… so there is a gray area, which I think Novak may provide the only answer to,” Brnabić added in a BBC interview.
According to a affidavit presented by Djokovic himself, a covid-19 test was positive on December 16, and a second, on December 22, was negative. According to images published by his foundation on his official social media accounts, on December 16 Djokovic would have participated in three events, and none of the participants appear with masks.
On December 30, Djokovic received the medical exception from Tennis Australia, which allowed him to enter the country without being vaccinated against covid-19 or having to quarantine, on the basis that he had just recovered from a contagion.
Medical exceptions to the covid-19 vaccine in the US
If you are not vaccinated against the coronavirus due to a medical contraindication, before boarding a flight to the United States you must show a letter from a licensed physician documenting this exception to the airline, according to the guidelines established by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC).
The CDC consider the following as a contraindication for applying vaccines against covid-19:
- Serious allergic reaction (eg, anaphylaxis) after a previous dose or to a component of the covid-19 vaccine
- Known diagnosed allergy to a component of the covid-19 vaccine
- For the Janssen vaccine, symptoms of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome after receiving a vaccine (or other COVID-19 vaccines not currently licensed in the United States or by the World Health Organization that are based on adenovirus vectors).