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Australia’s accidental anti-vax assistance

Isabel Williams
Written By
Isabel Williams
Australia’s accidental anti-vax assistance
Artwork by Louise Pau

A new martyr for the vaccine-hesitant? At least according to Djokovic’s father, “Jesus was crucified on the cross … but he is still alive among us. They are trying to crucify and belittle Novak and throw him to his knees”.

Djokovic has garnered mass attention and ignited a polarizing conversation after his vaccine exemption for the Australian Open was rejected in January this year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s actions may have intended to demonstrate Australia’s disagreement with anti-vax behaviour, we need to evaluate the unintended consequences.

There has been a storm of responses to the situation. From mainstream outlets like The Washington Post calling Djokovic a “whiny sports superstar with an exaggerated sense of entitlement” to Fox News host Laura Ingrahm saying “Australia is a COVID police state. It doesn’t deserve Djokovic”.

While you may disagree with the Jesus comparisons drawn by the Djokovic family or that Novakic should have even tried to enter Australia unvaccinated, the Australian government’s treatment of the world number one has given anti-vaxxers the evidence they need to believe governments will treat the unvaccinated as second-class citizens. This event isn’t even the first in Australia’s recent history to polarize the unvaccinated.

Novak was reportedly first detained for a six-hour integration, held in a migrant detention hotel that serves maggot-infested foods, and was locked in during Serbia’s Orthodox Christmas on the 7th.

This event is likely to further cement anti-vaxxer’s views and prevent people from getting vaccinated when it is needed now more than ever, especially in Djovokic’s home country of Serbia, which has a vaccination rate of around 50% and is seeing a 4th wave of cases. This is because of the availability heuristic, which says people are more likely to estimate the likelihood of an event based on the availability of the memory in their mind. The availability of a memory can be made up of how recent (Jan 2022), unusual (maggot-infested food), or emotional (Jesus in prison?!?) the event.

While Scott Morrison’s actions are suspected to be motivated by the public's negative view of him as they experience a huge spike in cases, Morrison seems to have not considered the global and long-term effects of his actions. A true politician.

While Djokovic doesn’t deserve special treatment, keeping the star comfortable would send a message to others that your vaccine status won’t affect the way governments treat you. If other public officials were to chime in and express their distaste for the way Australia has handled the situation, hesitant citizens would see evidence that their government cares about their well-being no matter their vaccine status.