Tennis star Novak Djokovic has found himself at the centre of an international controversy over his decision to refrain from vaccinating at the cost of access to international tennis tournaments like the Australian Open, the Roland-Garros, and potentially, Wimbledon. He sat down recently for an interview with BBC reporter Amol Rajan.
This remarkable interview shows a man who has enough inner balance and sense of integrity to defend the right to informed consent to medical treatment, and to defend his own reasonable bodily autonomy, in the face of a baying mob, that falsely believes — or at least, claims to believe — that there is some compelling public interest in requiring a 34-year-old athlete in tip-top shape to receive an experimental vaccine to protect himself against a disease that overwhelmingly targets the sick and elderly.
One of the reasons so many people attack Djokovic for his refusal to vaccinate is that they have been convinced by mainstream media propaganda into believing three things:
First, that the situation we are in is so dire that we should be willing to toss overboard the hallowed principle of informed consent to medical treatment. This was never true at any stage of the pandemic. But it is palpably absurd at this late stage, when the pandemic is essentially dissolving into a common cold.
Second, that a young athlete at the top of his game is at significant risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19. This is sheer nonsense, given the distribution of Covid risk and the profile of Covid hospitalisations, the vast majority of which involve underlying health problems independent from Covid-19.
And third, that receiving a Covid vaccine is somehow an “act of solidarity” even if you don’t need it yourself. There could be something to this argument if these vaccines actually conferred sterilising immunity, breaking the chain of transmission. But these vaccines do not block transmission. So there is absolutely nothing altruistic about taking this vaccine, if you don’t need it to protect your own health.
The interview is worth listening to in full. But I’d like to share some of the highlights with you:
1. Djokovic’s vaccination status.
Djokovic admitted in the interview that he had not received any vaccine against Covid.
2. Djokovic is making an informed decision about what is best for his own health.
Djokovic is taking a stance on his personal health decisions, not those of the rest of the world. Novak Djokovic simply assessed the information relevant to his personal case and decided vaccination was not right for him.
Probably half the planet was vaccinated and I fully respect that but I’ve always represented and always supported the freedom to choose what to put into your body…It’s really the principle of understanding what is right and what is wrong for you and me. As an elite professional athlete I’ve always carefully reviewed, assessed everything that comes in from the supplements, food, the water that I drink or sports drinks, anything really that comes into my body as a fuel. Based on all the information that I got, I decided not to take the vaccine as of today.
3. Djokovic is not opposed to other people getting vaccinated.
People like to represent Djokovic as an “anti-vaxxer” but he has never actually taken any stance on the general merits of the Covid vaccination campaigns or the general efficacy of the vaccines. As he puts it, he “was never against vaccination.”
4. Djokovic gains nothing, either monetarily or professionally, from defending his bodily integrity. But he preserves his personal autonomy and control over his own health choices.
It should give people a lot of pause for thought that an elite athlete of Djokovic’s standing is prepared to sacrifice his career in defence of his bodily autonomy and his health. In answer to the question, “Ultimately are you prepared to forego the chance to be the greatest player that ever picked up a racket … because you feel so strongly about this jab?”, he answered, without flinching, “Yes.”
5. Djokovic reiterates that he did not “cheat” to get into the Australian Open.
Djokovic insists, in the face of accusations that he wanted to bend the rules to get into the Australian Open, that all he did was follow the same rules as everyone else. He obtained a medical exemption based on a recent Covid recovery, an exemption that was approved anonymously by two independent medical panels prior to his arrival in Australia. His visa was ultimately revoked not on the basis that he broke any rule, but on the basis that his presence in Australia would foment “anti-vax sentiment.”
I would say that I take Covid very, very seriously, as really anybody else. And I assure you that I was taking PCR tests as anybody else… I’ve never used my privileged status in this country or any other country, and I was tested hundreds and hundreds of times since the beginning of the pandemic.
6. Djokovic apologises for having conducted an interview in the knowledge that he had tested positive for Covid.
Djokovic wishes he could turn back the clock and do things differently, concerning an interview he did after receiving a positive PCR Covid test. He was asymptomatic and had a negative antigen test, but now believes going ahead with that interview without properly notifying the parties involved was a regrettable lapse of judgment on his part, for which he is “sorry.”
I didn’t want to let (the interviewer) down. Should I have been more cautious? Should I have advised them? Absolutely. I wish I can take it back. It was my mistake. I own it … and I’m really sorry.
7. Djokovic is defending the principle of informed consent for everyone.
Djokovic’s willingness to sacrifice his career is not only for the sake of his own personal health, but also in defence of everybody’s right to informed consent. When asked initially why he had not been vaccinated against Covid, he said, “I understand…and support fully, the freedom to choose…whether you want to get vaccinated or not.” The fact is, if he rolled over and took a vaccine under duress, he would be handing a symbolic victory to the forces that are promoting medical tyranny and apartheid.
Well played, Djokovic!