'Morally indefensible': Backlash over Aussie sports' vaccine request

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Cricket Australia players, pictured here after the fourth Test against India.
Cricket Australia has enquired about getting its players vaccinated early. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Cricket Australia and the NRL have sparked controversy after asking the government for early access to the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19.

On Monday, Australia’s medical regulator formally approved the Pfizer vaccine, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing the first doses are expected to be administered in late February.

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The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) granted provisional approval for the Pfizer product, making it the first COVID-19 vaccine to get the green light in Australia.

On Tuesday, the NRL joined Cricket Australia in asking the government about the possibility of having their athletes vaccinated earlier than expected.

The NRL will make a request to the federal government for players to jump the vaccine queue so the New Zealand Warriors can host home games in 2021.

The Warriors were forced to spend the entire 2020 season in Australia away from their families because of New Zealand’s strict border restrictions.

League boss Peter V’landys said the NRL will ask for players to be vaccinated after health workers and at-risk individuals.

“Emergency workers have got to get it first and the most vulnerable have got to get it first. Who is after that? Well, that’s where we come in,” V’landys said.

“Under no circumstances are we going to jump the gun and go before emergency workers and the most vulnerable.

“But after that, there’s naturally some discussions to be had, to be on that list relatively high.”

Cricket Australia has reportedly made a similar request in the hope that the vaccine will allow the Test side to travel to South Africa for an upcoming tour.

But the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) Chairman Greg Dyer said it would not be “morally defensible” for athletes to be given priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Warriors players, pictured here celebrating a try during the 2020 NRL season.
Warriors players celebrate a try during the 2020 NRL season. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Australia are due to play three Tests in South Africa in March, though no venues or dates have been fixed.

“My personal view is that sportspeople should not be jumping the queue,” Dyer told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s the wrong look. There are more important people out there with much higher levels of exposure who need the vaccines first.”

Dyer said biosecurity protocols in place should be strict enough to ensure players do not require the vaccine.

“Sports need to build protocols which don’t require vaccines and we’ve been able to,” Dyer said.

“It’s not morally defensible for sportspeople to jump the queue.”

Fans were also left fuming over the NRL and Cricket Australia’s requests.

Scott Morrison’s warning for Pfizer vaccine

Australia has secured 10 million doses from Pfizer - enough to vaccinate five million people - with healthcare workers and the elderly expected to receive the first jabs.

“I note this is not an emergency approval, as has been done in some other jurisdictions around the world,” Morrison told reporters.

“This is a formal approval under the ordinary processes of the TGA and we are one of the first countries... to have gone through that comprehensive and thorough process here in Australia to ensure the approval of that vaccine.”

Morrison cautioned that the rollout would start with “very small beginnings” in late February, instead of the mid-February timetable his government had promised, due to production and delivery challenges globally.

Scott Morrison, pictured here announcing the planned rollout for the Pfizer vaccine in Australia.
Scott Morrison has announced the planned rollout for the Pfizer vaccine in Australia. Image: Getty

He said the vaccination program should be complete by October.

It means Australia will begin inoculating its citizens months after the United States and United Kingdom, despite Morrison’s boast earlier in the pandemic that his country would be “at the front of the queue”.

Australia has fared comparatively well in its COVID-19 response, with 909 deaths from about 28,700 cases in a population of 25 million.

The country has also secured more than 50 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with the majority set to be manufactured locally, but the TGA is yet to grant approval.

with agencies

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