Australian tennis association bans players from being immunized against measles

Back in 2013, the U.S. Tennis Association began enforcing a rule requiring all athletes to be vaccinated against measles. The policy was intended to prevent players from being sick enough to lose games, and was criticized as placing too much of a burden on the anti-vaccination movement.

But the policy has clearly played out in the American game, with most of the world’s elite players – Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova in particular – declaring that they do not regularly get vaccinated.

The new anti-vax stance is the central piece of a new medical health policy unveiled by Tennis Australia on Tuesday. The association, which owns the tennis courts, has turned from being the only Australian sporting association without a vaccine mandate to agreeing with the Australian Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that all its tennis players get immunized.

“We don’t think it’s fair to give the impression that those kids who aren’t vaccinated are not exposed to all sorts of things that are out there,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said in a statement. “Obviously, we are aware there’s a strong anti-vaccination movement in this country, which is not in line with what we believe or what we would like to be able to do. We are very conscious of that. But to suggest that that’s an excuse for them not to be immunized is probably not correct.”

The new policy, which will take effect at the Australian Open beginning next year, includes a variation on the Australian government’s vaccine exemptions for medical reasons. Under the new guidelines, players who are not immunized for any reason can still obtain a medical exemption. But for those who are not vaccinated against measles, the exemption will be a condition of entry for new players, along with two other diseases.

It is unclear how many players, if any, have already declined to be vaccinated.

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