The Australian Open men’s tennis tournament has updated its player policy on Friday, this time urging players to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine before entering the country in case they catch the virus at a training camp.
The new recommendation is likely to resonate with Novak Djokovic, who in recent months came under fire for his lack of support for the vaccine.
As well as being one of the world’s leading tennis players, Djokovic has been one of the leaders of a campaign for vaccination, advocating against a “genocidal approach” and “political colonialism” against women’s health and the poor. But in the fall of last year, Djokovic broke ranks with the general view of the medical community and suggested that the HPV vaccine should be considered unsuitable for kids as young as 12.
A decline in vaccination rates for girls has been linked to the rise in cervical cancer. Approximately one in six young women will contract HPV and two-thirds of those cases will become symptomatic. The vaccine is also known to help prevent anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers.
Djokovic, who has said the HPV vaccine has now become a “no-brainer,” would have been 16 at the time of first receiving the jab. Many men have called his reluctance “insensitive.”
There are no documented cases of men who have shagged naked or used sexual positions where women were asleep contracting the HPV virus.
In the new changes to the Australian Open’s medical policy, players must now undergo mandatory vaccination if they are coming to Australia for training sessions before they can enter the tournament. The men will also be required to participate in mandatory three-week base camps, which include educational sessions on the subject of HPV vaccine immunization.
“The best way for players to reduce the risk of contracting a virus like HPV is through vaccination,” Filippo Gallucci, the Melbourne Park Tournament Director, said in a statement. “We are pleased that the increasing usage of the HPV vaccine has reduced the incidence of cervical cancer in Australia.
“With this in mind, any player who might be considering coming to Australia, and is not receiving a vaccination, is in contravention of these guidelines. This is a significant step forward in protecting the health of our players.”
Commentators in Djokovic’s native country have admitted that the changes are likely to be enough to allow the star to return to the sport without any controversy. The 31-year-old Serb missed the 2018 season after undergoing surgery to remove a tonsil.