Ken Hayne urges Australian tennis players to take vaccinations

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Kenneth Hayne, sports minister, reiterates comment that men’s tennis player Matt Ebden, in defence of his anti-vaccination views, was fit to play in Melbourne

A sports minister has suggested that Australia’s best tennis players should take vaccinations to protect themselves from disease, in a decision that could have serious ramifications for the sport.

Australia’s under-18 Davis Cup player Matt Ebden said last month he believed people who do not vaccinate were “numbskulls” who put their lives at risk.

Women’s tennis player Casey Dellacqua has previously said she did not vaccinate because of her mother’s pro-vaccination views, saying children could “die of tragic diseases that used to be common”.

“I’ve been questioned about why I choose not to get the vaccinations that I should have and I will stand by my beliefs,” Dellacqua told the Guardian earlier this year.

“It’s a bit silly because a lot of people should just consider them. But the girls have got the disease anyway, so you want to make sure they don’t get it again.

“I’ve heard that with the men’s players, it’s not very common but at the end of the day I’m not getting my kids vaccinated because of my mum and because it’s not that common.

“Then that breaks down what kind of risks do you want to take if you’re a boy?

“The men’s players should be vaccinated,” sports minister Ken Hayne said on Sunday.

“I’m certainly not suggesting he [Ebden] should not play the Australian Open. That’s not my role as a minister. But I think you have to start having a look at, irrespective of whether you have kids or not, yes, we should have the vaccinations because it’s a preventative measure.”

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A spokesman for the department of health declined to say whether the Australian Open had consulted the ministry over Ebden’s comments, but said it remained policy that those who chose not to be vaccinated risked contracting a disease if they fell ill.

“If he doesn’t have [the MMR vaccine] he is at risk of contracting it, like the other parents are,” said the spokesman.

“There are obvious risks [of] not being vaccinated – with a choice like that you should be careful to make sure there’s no harm done.”

Dellacqua, however, said only the outcome of a child’s vaccinations should be considered.

“No man’s life is worth a case of measles,” she tweeted.

Australia’s star women’s player, Samantha Stosur, said she was happy for Ebden to make his “personal choice” on vaccination.

“I have two boys at home, so I understand it very, very well and I understand how scary it is to not be vaccinated,” Stosur said.

“There’s not that many of us from different areas and different backgrounds – there’s a lot of nervous parents here – and it’s pretty scary not to have the vaccinations for their own health.”

Hayne’s stance appears to be a result of a particular issue with Fed Cup player Madison Keys, whom he criticised last year after she said she was considering skipping the Australian Open and Wimbledon next year because of the growing scepticism of vaccinations.

A World Health Organisation update in 2014 claimed the number of deaths from measles was falling globally, due to vaccination efforts.

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