Image Credits: AP.

Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player in the world, and he just missed winning the Grand Slam in 2021, which is accomplished by winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open in a single year. Only two men have ever achieved this, the last being Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969. Djokovic fell just short last year when he lost in the U.S. Open finals, but there was a decent chance he would pull it off in 2022.  Unfortunately, he’ll never get the chance because he was just deported from Australia for his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Part of the court’s argument for denying him the opportunity to play in the Australian Open is that his mere presence in the country might set a bad example and inspire resistance to the vaccines.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has left Australia after losing his legal challenge to remain in the country and compete in the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Djokovic departed Australia at 10:39 p.m. local time, on an Emirates flight to Dubai.

After a weekend of hurried court hearings, a panel of three Australian federal justices unanimously upheld the immigration minister’s decision to cancel the unvaccinated athlete’s visa on the grounds that his presence in the country might incite anti-vaccine sentiment and “civil unrest,” clearing the way for the country to deport him and ending his hopes of competing in the Australian Open.

A lot of the world is growing aggressively impatient with people like Djokovic who put their personal liberty above the collective interests of society. CNN has an article up today on how this is playing out in Europe. In Austria, where a third of the population remains unvaccinated, the shots will become mandatory on February 1. The compulsory policy in under consideration for the entire European Union bloc. Switzerland has already implemented pretty strong incentives for inoculation.

Before Covid-19, Nicolas Rimoldi had never attended a protest.

But somewhere along the pandemic’s long and tortuous road, which saw his native Switzerland imposing first one lockdown, then another, and finally introducing vaccination certificates, Rimoldi decided he had had enough.

Now he leads Mass-Voll, one of Europe’s largest youth-orientated anti-vaccine passport groups.

Because he has chosen not to get vaccinated, student and part-time supermarket cashier Rimoldi is — for now, at least — locked out of much of public life. Without a vaccine certificate, he can no longer complete his degree or work in a grocery store. He is barred from eating in restaurants, attending concerts or going to the gym.

“People without a certificate like me, we’re not a part of society anymore,” he said. “We’re excluded. We’re like less valuable humans.”

A part of me is sympathetic to the idea that individuals should maintain substantial autonomy over medical decisions without risking the loss of employment, education, or other opportunities. It’s partly that I see the parallels to the abortion question, and I am pro-choice. But it’s more than that. I don’t automatically believe that the science is always right when it comes to safety, and there are plenty of horror stories to back up my skepticism. I do think there’s value in having some people resist when told they absolutely have to get a vaccine.

But contagious disease is a community problem, and whether we’re talking about measles or polio or COVID-19, personal autonomy has to take second place to collective health.

Still, I’d be worried if literally everyone went along because I can envision a scenario where the governments were making a grave error. I actually want there to be a some resistance reflex because it will come in handy at some point in the future. Maybe that’s the American in me, but I think maintaining skepticism and personal autonomy is it’s own kind of vaccine against tyranny.

But I also think it’s important to look at the evidence. It’s really clear right now that the vaccines have saved lives without causing any obvious or significant problems. There’s some merit in arguing that you should not be compelled to get the vaccine, but no merit to the idea that they’re not safe.

In any case, imagine someone walking around in some Old West frontier town with an obvious case of small pox and insisting that they should be able to go sit at the bar in the saloon or get a haircut at the barber. That person would be run out of town, at best, and possibly put in a shallow grave. And that would be an appropriate kind of frontier justice for someone so aggressively stupid that they’d put the whole community at risk. Unlike smallpox, the coronavirus is invisible, but the basic principles are the same. The community has the right to cast out people whose idea of personal autonomy puts everyone else at risk.

As long as we use some restraint and don’t start forming lynching posses, I think it’s okay to treat the unvaccinated as unwelcome outcasts. But there does have to be some respect for dissent. It’s enough that Djokovic will miss out on effort to with the Grand Slam. He doesn’t need to be put in a shallow grave.


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