Written by Staff Writer
Matt Crossick, CNN
While most sports fans are happy to cheer for a team wearing the official jersey, the Australian state of Victoria is making a bold gesture to protect its residents by not allowing anyone in the state who has not been vaccinated against some of the most deadly diseases.
The so-called Guillain-Barre syndrome scare will take place at this week’s Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, where members of the public, the armed forces and players’ family will be required to take a voluntary immunization.
Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews, referring to news reports of an increase in cases of the rare condition in Australia and around the world, said: “This is about protecting our most vulnerable.”
He said the move was made due to the potential risk to the 2.2 million residents living in Victoria, who are being encouraged to take part in “herd immunity,” or the simple rule that everyone who lives in the state must be vaccinated against any contagious diseases.
Sports players aren’t exempt, however, and just last week players Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios issued a joint statement saying their teams would be vaccinations at this year’s Australian Open.
Victoria’s population should contain an unvaccinated population of only 0.8%, but “we may exceed that by 18% or more,” Andrews said.
“That is not acceptable. It is not safe.”
Andrews said the decision will last until 2021, but many have questioned the need for it in a world where vaccine rates are so high.
“I see this as part of a process that will move us from where we are today into an era where unvaccinated people have no place in Victoria,” Andrews told reporters.
The aim is to bring the unvaccinated rate to a target of 0.4%, he said.
Andrews acknowledged that while his legislation might raise some concern among those who don’t immunize, it is “much better than leaving children at risk.”
Andrews hopes the move will make the state’s immunization rates, which are among the highest in the world at 99%, more protective against diseases like measles, whooping cough and mumps.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare and potentially deadly disorder that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis, and it is normally triggered by an allergic reaction.
The disease can also be caused by an underlying condition or infection, such as a urinary tract infection or HIV.