Australian tennis players trying to play in next month’s Australian Open would face serious problems if they did not take up a compulsory vaccination against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
GPs will be given notice at the beginning of the year that the vaccine is in season, a joint press conference of Hunt and Australian Open tournament organiser Craig Tiley announced on Monday.
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Australian tennis players frequently compete at the high-profile annual tournament. Female players Johanna Konta and Samantha Stosur suffered through bouts of acute meningitis and glandular fever in 2015. Both were exempt from the mandatory vaccination after reassurances from their doctors.
After players complained that the mandatory vaccine dents their performances, Tiley told Australian media that players will no longer be exempt from its compulsory vaccination.
“We have a tradition of allowing our players to compete in events with exemptions. This year that will be changed. No exemptions,” Tiley told the media on Monday.
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Australian Dr. Hans-Guenther Müller-Wohlfahrt, chair of the World Health Organization’s global task force on vaccines, said about 3 percent of the world’s population is currently infected with the HPV virus.
The vaccine to combat the virus, which is responsible for 90 percent of cervical cancer cases in women, is a recommended vaccine by all doctors and health officials worldwide. Hunt said the new vaccination requirement will not affect players on the Australian WTA Tour.
Tiley has also promised that doctors will get a 12-month period notice about the mandatory vaccination requirement to which players can either opt out or accept in order to compete.
If not vaccinated, a player can be barred from the tournament. Hunt said in a statement that players should “understand the importance of this vaccine and take the opportunity to get vaccinated.”