Who is propelling a backlash against vaccinations in tennis?

The first major championships of the tennis season are just over a month away, and like with all other sporting events, vaccinations are considered a safety measure. The players, however, have not taken kindly…

Who is propelling a backlash against vaccinations in tennis?

The first major championships of the tennis season are just over a month away, and like with all other sporting events, vaccinations are considered a safety measure. The players, however, have not taken kindly to the idea that to play at such a high level it would be unsafe to receive the vaccinations. Some players, especially those born and raised in South America, have stated publicly that they have refused their injections. The latest entrant, 23-year-old Andrey Rublev, has done the same. And if he decides not to wear the shot in his foot? Not good.

Rublev announced he would be refusing to take the shot this week before he withdrew from the French Open with a foot injury, just one of a long list of injuries that have affected him this year. And the Russian tennis star also explained he is reluctant to receive the shots, even with the assistance of his coach. “I said to my coach that I’m not taking the shot,” he told reporters after his withdrawal from the French Open. “I know the shot will heal my foot, which has been badly injured for the last two months.” He added: “I’m feeling strong, so I will try the shot when I’m confident.”

These comments illustrate that the players themselves still don’t understand why vaccines are needed. Thankfully for their safety, many doctors concur. Even renowned activists, such as Tom Szaky, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have said they would rather risk a shot of Novichok than a match against players who refused the injections.

Last year, the US Tennis Association discouraged players from taking the vaccine, citing “serious risks” to their health. A major disagreement ensued between the association and its medical staff, and the rule has now been modified. Although it is “a close working relationship,” the association has said it is still encouraged by its medical officials to urge the players to get vaccinated, even as its Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jeffrey Crandall, has written in a recent op-ed that, “We realize that what’s right for one player is not necessarily right for another, and that some players may prefer to remain unvaccinated.” But Crandall still feels that the player health risks are “significant” and that the athletic risks associated with getting the shots “could be the equivalent of a concussion or a preexisting hip fracture.” He did say that the benefits of the vaccination outweigh any potential risks, adding that they would not recommend it unless it was necessary.

He also warned of a growing trend among top players to not take the vaccine because of what they said was a fear of becoming allergic to it. Even if true, the scientists say there is no direct link to the shots and allergies, but this issue has been investigated by research groups, although a study said there was no link between the vaccine and the allergy.

Indeed, someone who is vaccinated is far less likely to suffer allergies to some of the newer vaccines, including a now required one in the winter.

As 2016 was the first year since 1992 that some of the best tennis players in the world were allergic to an ingredient in a vaccine — which was passed in the late ’90s — no one in the world of sport has been willing to acknowledge that it is simply a decision they are making. Despite what they’ve said publicly, the U.S. Tennis Association has, however, said it has always supported its players “in making their own health-related decisions.”

On the other hand, the American Tennis Association medical and safety staff is encouraging all players to get the vaccination for “best protection.” It should also be understood that the shots do not only protect athletes but can have other benefits. These include preventing the development of allergies to other vaccines, such as the polio and the diphtheria vaccine. The goal is to provide Americans with a safer and healthier Olympics, where “athletes are protected,” no matter which sport they take part in.

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