The world number one male tennis player Novac Djokovic was recently deported from Australia, where he had arrived to defend the Australian Open title for record tenth time, and to bag his 21st Grand Slam title. He was deported from Australia to native Serbia by the Australian government. What for?

He did not receive his anti-Covid vaccine. Australia mandates that foreign visitors entering the country be double-vaccinated, failing which they would be quarantined for 14 days. The unvaccinated Djokovic had claimed on social media that he had been granted medical exemption by two independent medical panels organized by Tennis Australia and Victoria State. This sparked widespread public outrage among Australians who had to undergo one of the most stringent lockdowns, restrictions and vaccination drives.90% of adult Australians are double-dosed.   

The player arrived in Melbourne airport on 5 January 2022, only to have his visa reversed by border officials. He was subsequently detained in a hotel for five days. In the meantime his attorneys managed to get his visa cancellation quashed.

On January 14 2022 Immigration minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa on ‘health and good order grounds, on the basis of public interest’. Federal Court judges upheld Hawke’s decision to cancel the Serb’s visa on public interest grounds.

Djokovic was promptly deported from Australia, placing the tenth Australian Open trophy beyond his long arms, and leaving the world of sport shell-shocked, and Serbia-Australia diplomatic relations in tatters.

The Australian government trampled on the right of an individual to make his choice on receiving the vaccine. On purely scientific terms, the decision of the Australian government is high-handed, an over-do and outlandish because refusal of Djekovic not to vaccinate only endangered his own life and none other in society.

Because, as of now, since the world’s battle against Covid-19 commenced with first cases being reported from China’s Wuhan in late December 2019, vaccines developed in a jiffy have failed to (1) prevent infections within the community. Rampant breakthrough infections and re-infections are observed in those who have been double-dosed and even boostered. (2) To limit transmission of the virus.  Though Western studies vouch for vaccines’ ability to halt viral transmission between people, ground reality suggests otherwise in this part of the world. At the time of writing, even though 77.39% have been double-vaccinated in Kerala, the Southern Indian state recorded over 100 clusters, most of them in institutions. This has had the Kerala government reconsider closing down centres of Higher Education reverting to online format.  However, despite apparent failure of vaccines on the above two fronts, vaccines have succeeded to significantly decrease death and serious infections due to the virus. Hospitalization and ICU admissions too have decreased significantly. On these scientific facts, Djekovic’s deportation needs to be revoked. Even if he had received the vaccine, he would still have contracted the virus, transmitting it to those interacting with him. He may have paid for not vaccinating by succumbing, had he contracted the infection .if Djekovic doesn’t believe in longevity, that’s his problem. Not Australia’s!

Australia’s recent track record with Covid hasn’t been encouraging despite 90% of her adult population being double-dosed. January 18 2022 had Australia staring at record-high Covid deaths. 74 succumbed (22 in Victoria, 16 in Queensland and 36 in New South Wales).Queensland declared an emergency in hospitals to cope with surging admissions and staffing shortage. On what did the Australian government base its obstinate faith in the vaccines, in that scenario, to deport Djekovic?

Australia isn’t the only country to have suffered the pandemic’s relentless march. Every nation has suffered in more ways than one. It is therefore time for governments to accept the limitations of the vaccines, and to bank on their strengths. To give up baseless and unscientific vaccine-fixation.  The Australian Premier’s ‘rules are rules’ quip that threw Djokovic out of Australia lacked scientific backing. Sadly!

Masks have gone up and public places remain locked despite vaccines.

It is time to accept that vaccines have failed in their two primary functions (1) to prevent infections, and (2) to prevent transmission of the pathogen in the community. The vaccines have failed on these two counts because;

  • Not a single vaccine has been subjected to proper, time-consuming human clinical trials. The magnitude of destruction caused by the virus in terms of morbidity and mortality and economic woes inflicted on nations had governments and WHO permit human use of these half-cooked vaccines on ‘Emergency Use Authorization.’ 
  • Effective vaccines for other pandemics and communicable diseases have been developed over 10 years. This is only the second year into Covid-19. Pharmacy shelves are already bursting at their seams with vaccines of various shapes and sizes.
  • Emergence of mutants, as a virus is wont to produce. This has significantly eaten into vaccine efficacy.
  • Vaccines have fallen into wrong hands-those of politicians, who utilized them to score political brownie points and to cover up governance failures on other fronts. Vaccines and the pandemic have been God sent for numerous governments and their heads, who clamored to self-profess as ‘vaccine gurus’
  • Vaccines have been made mandatory, especially for travel despite their shortcomings, creating skeptics out of people. This has been the biggest pitfall.

It is more sensible, going by the current experience thus far with vaccines, to insist on negative RTPCR results than vaccination certificates. It is pertinent for governments to ensure people mask up, sanitize hands and avoid crowds religiously, test more liberally and to quarantine the infected, than to force-vaccinate them to ‘control infection and transmission’, as they wrongly believe. Vaccines must be banked on, only for one reason-to bring down mortality and severity of infection. Governments must give up vaccine-fixation and obstinacy which defy scientific temper. Let Djokovics of the world continue to enthrall fans, browbeaten and depressed, thanks to the pandemic-necessitated restrictions.