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Ethics professor says Djokovic ‘could cause harm’ with Covid vaccine comments

Novak Djokovic’s comments on vaccination against Covid-19 will “cause harm”, argued a medical ethicist.

His opinions are “hugely influential” could “reinforce beliefs” among people who are not as fit and healthy as the tennis star, according to Professor Dominic Wilkinson.

The professor of medical ethics at the University of Oxford said the response to the coronavirus pandemic should be collective and suggested that libertarian views on vaccination of “my body, my decision, my choice” present a ” fundamental ethical problem”.

But Professor Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at Oxford University, said the tennis ace had been ‘vilified’.

Djokovic was kicked out of Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open last month amid concerns over his vaccination status.

The Serbian tennis star told the BBC he was “never against vaccination”, but insisted: “I have always supported the freedom to choose what you put in your body”.

Commenting on the interview, Professor Wilkinson told the PA news agency: “It seems to me that he has no political agenda, that he is not aiming to get his views on vaccines out, but nonetheless, his views – as evidenced by this high profile interview – are hugely influential.

“So one thing that he doesn’t take into account, which I think someone who is in the public eye should take into account, is that his behavior will influence others.

“One ethical reason why people who are in the public eye should behave in a way that is in a sense, kind of a higher standard than everyone else is because the behavior is very influential, it teaches others how to behave.

“So if somebody who is an incredibly well-known top athlete doesn’t have the vaccine and says so publicly, and there’s a lot of attention on it, even if that’s not their intention , this will have the effect of supporting those who oppose the vaccine.

Professor Wilkinson added: “The fundamental ethical problem with a libertarian approach to vaccines, which is ‘my body, my decision, my choice’, is that vaccines are not just about you – they are about all of us.

“Our response to infections like the coronavirus is a collective response – it’s something we’re all in together. It is not enough to say: “I am at low risk”. I will not get sick.

“You should also consider the possibility that you transmit the virus to others. So I think that’s the flaw in his kind of self-reflection.

“And of course that extends to the messages he sends, because it’s fine for him to say, ‘I don’t want to have the vaccine. I’m a fit athlete, I’m not at risk .

“But when he comes out and says it in such a public way, it does harm, because it potentially reinforces those beliefs among other people who aren’t super fit and healthy like him, and who might just be racing. a serious risk of falling ill.

“So I think that’s kind of the problem with the short-sighted, self-centered libertarian view of vaccines.”