AWhile the Miami Open marched into its climax, one of the many off-field discussions that raged during the event is the simple question of the sport’s attitude towards vaccination during the pandemic. Players were asked about their position during the week, and a tendency towards ambivalence became clear.
For Andrey Rublev, the Russian world No.8, the vaccination would hardly make a difference for him as he would still have to stay in the tournament bubbles: “I don’t know,” Rublev said. ” There is no reason. Just – I don’t know. Just out of the feelings, because I’ve never had a vaccine since I was a kid, so I don’t know. I feel good with this way. I have never had any health problems. “
World No.5 Elina Svitolina said she was considering getting the shot until her friends suggested she don’t. She framed her warning around the lack of any benefit to her professional career. World No.8 Aryna Sabalenka made it clear: “I don’t really trust her. Of course, I don’t want my family to take it. If I have to do it, I’ll really think twice before I do it.
The WTA will find solace in the messages broadcast by its top three players. Ashleigh Barty is hoping her family and boyfriend can meet her on tour once they get the shot. Naomi Osaka says she will receive one as soon as she is eligible. Simona Halep has already had her first dose. “I had the vaccine. So I can say I’m a little bit safer now, ”Halep said.
They can all be products of their society, but athletes also have the power to affect them. In Russia, numerous polls have indicated widespread ambivalence towards vaccination. Only 30% of respondents to a February poll said they were ready to be vaccinated, an 8% drop from December, while 62% said they did not want to be vaccinated. Only 19% of people aged 18 to 24 were ready. Rublev is 23 years old and his position is not surprising.
Meanwhile, Halep’s vaccination was very public, coordinated by the head of the national vaccination campaign, Valeriu Gheorghita. This has led to many negative comments which in itself reaffirm the importance for one of the most prominent athletes in the country to receive the vaccine without problems.
The ATP and WTA tours then issued separate statements indicating their support for the vaccination and education of their players, with the WTA stating that it will not force players to vaccinate “because it is a personal decision that we respect ”. This week stressed that both tours have a duty to provide their players with more information about the vaccine and better educate them about the process.
As vaccines continue to be distributed around the world, sport governing bodies have faced a similar problem. Over the past several months in the National Basketball Association, player apprehension about vaccines has been a hot topic of discussion. After the widely reported attempts by the NBA to recruit players for the PSAs, it seemed particularly noteworthy that, rather than a player, the All-Star Game saw actor Michael B Jordan in talks with US Vice President Kamala. Harris.
As in the UK, a long history of discrimination against blacks in health care has left its mark on the pandemic and general caution towards medical services has resulted in Covid-19 vaccines. Since blacks in the United States have been hospitalized and died from the virus at disproportionately high rates, this is a dangerous combination. The NBA is a league populated by a majority of black professionals and their apprehension simply reflects their community but their voices also have the capacity to positively influence communities at risk.
The sight of players receiving vaccines is increasingly normal and a handful of teams have already publicly admitted to being vaccinated. More broadly, the American leagues have taken measures to encourage vaccination. The NBA is proposing a relaxation of certain protocols for vaccinated players and even full teams once 85% of players and coaches are vaccinated. The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Major League Baseball will also be promoting vaccination.
Tennis, however, is in a different situation. Over the past year, governing bodies have been driven by the whims of local and national governments around the world, some of which are as concerned with protecting the public from itinerant actors as the other way around. But as different countries discuss restrictions for those who have had the vaccine, it is only a matter of time before travel vaccination policies leave gamers with a more urgent decision to make. It remains to be seen how hesitant they will be then.