Three players from Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) were stood down yesterday for refusing to have flu vaccinations after the intervention of Queensland state’s top medical officer.
The NRL, which suspended its season in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, is planning to resume matches behind closed doors on May 28 and had asked players to have the flu shots as part of biosecurity protocols.
Three players at the Gold Coast Titans club in the south of Queensland were among those who refused and Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said that they had been stood down.
“I’ve had a discussion with [the NRL] this morning and they’ve stood down those three players at the moment until we work out what it means,” she told reporters. “They’ll be coming back to me about those three individual players, but remember that’s three players out of three teams, so we’ll work that one through.”
The Australian Rugby League Commission on Thursday said that players would be permitted to train and play despite not having a vaccination by signing a waiver.
Titans forward Bryce Cartwright had signed the waiver after earlier in the week indicating that he would refuse to be vaccinated.
“I stand for the freedom to decide what goes into our bodies,” Cartwright wrote on Twitter. “I won’t be bullied into making decisions that could impact my health and the health of my family.”
Another of the players, Nathan Peats, wrote on Twitter that a bad experience with a flu jab earlier in his career was behind his refusal, but that he would now comply.
“I’ve spoken to the club and will get the jab this afternoon,” he said. “I had the option to say yes or no and I chose no for that reason. If I knew it would blow up, I would have said yes straight away.”
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday reiterated his stance that players should have to have vaccinations to play.
“Ultimately the states and territories have to determine what the health requirements are as they apply to the NRL,” Morrison told a news conference. “If they were to be insisting on that, then I would think that’s entirely reasonable.”
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