Novak Djokovic clarifies: He’s opposed to a covid vaccine ‘in order to be able to travel’

Miami Open 2019 - Day 3

As we discussed yesterday, ATP world #1 Novak Djokovic said some problematic sh-t about vaccines over the weekend. He was in some kind of group chat with other Serbian players and he said, in part (this is a translation): “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.” He was referencing the idea that for tennis players to travel internationally, the tour might make a coronavirus vaccine compulsory. Nevermind that a vaccine doesn’t exist yet, and nevermind that in all likelihood, the tour will probably start up again before a vaccine is even mass-produced.

Djokovic’s comments got a lot of attention from the international media. Yeah, Novak might not have Roger Federer’s fame and reputation, but Novak is still pretty famous and this is not the look that tennis wants, especially from its #1 player. The New York Times went to Djokovic and asked for clarification. Novak released this new statement through his rep, but did not clarify if he’s against ALL vaccines (aka anti-Vaxx).

“Personally I am opposed to the vaccination against COVID-19 in order to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, I’ll have to make a decision whether to do it, or not. This is my current feeling. I don’t know if it will change, but it really influences my profession. Many tennis players, athletes have reached out to me asking what my opinion is on this whole situation. I have expressed my views because I have the right to and I also feel responsible to highlight certain essential topics that are concerning [the] tennis world.

“To be honest, just like the rest of the world I am a bit confused. Despite having access to information and resources, I am left in doubt about what could be the best thing to do. My job requires lots of travel. Some are saying that for us who travel, we would have to take the vaccine that is yet to be developed. Therefore, I would like to repeat and point out that at this moment we do not have adequate information.

“We don’t know if there will be new measures, which of them will be taken, will we have a choice to decide on our own what to do or not with the vaccine. I would like to know more details about the whole process, before making right decisions. I am curious about wellbeing and I am going to spend the whole lifetime learning about the body and how we can empower our metabolism to be in the best shape to defend against imposters like Covid-19. My fullest respect and gratitude goes to all the noble and compassionate medical people who are giving support to the ones that need it the most. I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body. I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research on this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.”

[From Christopher Clarey/NYT]

Yeah, he’s an anti-Vaxxer, he speaks in circles and refuses to confirm whether he’s anti-vaccine across the board (which is just what an anti-Vaxxer does). This really bothers me! And think about this too: he and his wife Jelena Djokovic have two small children, and those kids travel internationally too. Are Novak and Jelena refusing to vaccinate Stefan and Tara? I bet that’s the case and it suuucks. As for what he says specifically about a coronavirus vaccine (which doesn’t exist) and the completely theoretical mandate that all tennis players would have to be vaccinated… I really don’t get why he’s stuck on that issue alone? It seems so picayune and so far away, the idea that we’ll have widely available and effective vaccines AND that the ATP tour would make those vaccines mandatory.

Novak Djokovic

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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46 Responses to “Novak Djokovic clarifies: He’s opposed to a covid vaccine ‘in order to be able to travel’”

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  1. Eleonor says:

    I can’t.
    I can’t with anti-vaxxer it’s selfish and irresponsible.
    And here I stop.
    I let the link to the heartbraking Roal Dahl letter, after the death of his 12 years old daugther. She died of measles.

  2. Ali says:

    Yesterday I was on a webinar about vaccination in Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Kenya.

    Because of the coronavirus children are not being vaccinated so there is fear that there will be an outbreak of polio, measles, and other diseases.

    I mention this because these anti-Vaxxers truly disgust me.

  3. A says:

    Jelena shared on Instagram that 5g causes covid. They probably don’t vaccinate their kids.

    • Some chick says:

      Oh, FFS!

      These morons will be the death of us all.

    • Erinn says:

      LOL it always makes me ragey but ALSO makes me laugh when these dolts share things from their phone, over wifi or cell service to complain about the dangers of cell service.

    • Lara says:

      I don’t know much about Djokovic, but I do know that Serbia has a very strict vaccination policy. Per the European Forum for Vaccine Vigilance (, the following information is available (paraphrasing from the original):

      “In the Republic of Serbia immunisation is mandatory against 11 diseases: diphtheria, haemophilus influenzae tybe B, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, pertussis, poliomyelitis, rubella, tetanus, tuberculosis, pneumococcus.

      “Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children from February 2016 can be fined €250,00 ($270 USD) to €1400,00 ($1520 USD) for each refusal and are sometimes threatened with jail sentences. Before coming to court, parents are invited to have a consultation with an epidemiologist. Also, averted by the health authorities, social services investigate parents for child neglect.

      “There are […] permanent contraindications identified by an Expert Team, but it is extremely difficult to get them: 1) immunodeficiency due to: malignant diseases, antimetabolites, high corticosteroids doses, alkylating compounds or radiation and other established immunosuppression; 2) confirmed allergy to components of the vaccine (anaphylaxis); 3) proven side effects from a previous vaccination.

      “When deciding to refuse vaccination,
      – a decision from the sanitary inspector will arrive, which requires parents to promptly bring the child to the vaccination.
      – An appeal against the decision of the sanitary inspector can be presented (it doesn’t postpone the immunisation)
      – when the decision on appeal is against parents’ decision, an administrative dispute before the Administrative Court can be presented
      – after completing an administrative dispute, institute proceedings pursuant to a constitutional complaint before the Constitutional Court
      – a lawsuit can be presented to the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg”

      The only caveat mentioned is that “No refusal on religious grounds can be opposed,” but it’s not clear to me from the text whether the refusal on religious grounds is effective from beginning of the parents’ refusal to vaccinate or if it’s from the start of appeal.

      Per google search, he has a child born in 2017 and thus would have been subject to the laws and process mentioned above. I don’t know if he used his status and influence to avoid such proceedings, but it does seem like if he refused to vaccinate his children, it would have been mentioned in the media.

    • Teresa says:

      Way back when people were convinced electricity was killing people. Morons have unfortunately existed forever. I refuse to even offer to respect people whose moronic ideas harm others. I know people don’t like cancel culture but nope, never will I respect this man or his family. May his children relieve themselves of their selfish stupid parents.

  4. Oatmeal says:

    Djokovic is no stranger to quackery

    A few years back he had some weird doctor as part of his camp and he had some sort of coach/ spiritual guru on his team that Djokovic rambling about love and peace

    Djoko even fired his long time coach and promoted the guru to full time coach. Also, that shady doctor that was in his camp it was rumored that he was largely responsible for transforming Djoker into an iron man with unlimited stamina , aside from discovering his celiac issues *eyeroll*

    Anyway , suffice it to say that Djoko is no stranger to shady science

    • julia says:

      OMG, you’re right, I had completely forgotten about Djoko going full Goop a few years ago. The latest development makes so much more sense now!

      So I guess in 2020 we’re still going to be disappointed/appalled by famous people’s behaviour, except this time it’s for being complete idiots. Damn

  5. Margareth says:

    What a dumb man!

    • Mac says:

      What a selfish man. He thinks he should decide if he gets to enter a country without being vaccinated against a highly transmissible and deadly virus.

  6. OSTONE says:

    Imagine being so talented that you become famous and rich.. you have all the resources and information at your fingertips. You have science and facts and yet, you choose to ignore that because you think you and your descendants are special and superior! You don’t need to vaccinate because you won’t “poison” yourself and your family, others be damned. The pinnacle of privilege is also the pinnacle of stupidity. His arrogance turns me off so I don’t care to watch him and his career anymore. Boy bye.

    • emmy says:

      Hubris. It’s very simple yet terrifying, isn’t it? I see it in my law firm all the time. These dudes in their 50s who are uber successful and have had people cater to their every whim for decades. They think they’re too important to stay home. I personally think they can’t work the damn webex app and don’t want to admit it. Because they’re in the office … on the damn phone! You can’t do that at home?

      But if you tell people they’re special long enough, they’ll believe it. And we treat athletes like frickin’ demi-gods so this is no suprise.

  7. Mia4s says:

    Not sure who to credit for this originally but it always springs to mind: I don’t like the term “anti-vaxxer”….I prefer ”dead children enthusiast”.

    To hell with this idiot.

  8. Tanguerita says:

    Dumb idiot. Never liked him, glad that I have a legitimate reason not to now.

  9. Jbird says:

    MOST people aren’t up to date on their vaccinations- more adults than children aren’t- so good luck with getting everyone up to date with the shitty access to healthcare we have here in the US. My son CANNOT be vaccinated because he has an exemption due to autoimmune issues AND a near deathly vaccine reactions. (I’m not anti vax and up to date on my vaccinations before someone calls me “disgusting” like in the past.) How about we work on people having access to healthcare first before we worry about who can travel or not or who gets the gold vaccination star vs the evil black mark of the unvaccinated.

    • Frida_K says:

      I’m not anti-vax by a long shot but I am in the camp of having deathly reactions to most medications that constitute “standard of care.” I just get sick. I get every rare side effect and even surprise extra special rare side effects.

      I weigh my use of Western pharmaceutical drugs out (risk/benefit) and am very careful about what I choose to take. This is not because I’m anti-vax but because I truly am a near deathly reaction type of person.

      I bitterly resent anti-vexers because they make it harder for people who genuinely can’t take most drugs.

  10. Oatmeal says:

    Igor Cetejovic , the “doctor” credited with changing Djoker’s diet to gluten free and changing him from a fragile athlete with stamina problems to an iron man with unlimited stamina

    Mind you , I have friends that have gone gluten free and none have made such radical physical changes buy I digress

    Also, Pepe Imaz, the love and peace guru/coach who was also on the squad for a time . He was even coaching Djokovic’s brother full time for a bit

    Truly, Djoker has associated himself with some odd ducks over the years so I’m not suprised he and his wife are anti vax

    Djoker is also deeply religious so he probably sees vaccines as perverting gods will or some dumb shit

    Meh, I never liked the guy or his tennis and this just confirms what an azz he is

    • lemonylips says:

      this explains so much… now i feel bad for trying to defend him, but he chose to be brainwashed.

  11. lemonylips says:

    As a Balkan girl originally I already knew this anti-vaxx thing. Was not that surprised. And no matter how stupid I do think it is, especially now, and because as some other Balkan girl posted last time – it’s mandatory back home, I do like Novak. Mostly because if they would need extra money to develop whatever it is, even vaccine, he’d probably contribute even though he’s against it. Meaning, his heart is in a good place, even when his mind isn’t. I don’t understand that but I know how much he has helped people of Croatia, as a Serbian (because of war that is trully something most people can not yet understand) after the earthquake in Zagreb now during the pandemic, after the floods before that. Imagine having to deal with earthquake now guys. It was horrible. So, yeah I think it’s stupid saying any of this but I can’t hate him for it cause he has proven to be a nice human being in situations others didn’t care at all. I’m torn about it honestly.

    • Snowslow says:

      He is not a horrible person, he is just uneducated on scientific questions, he has access and time to alternative medicine and falls prey to lots of bad science out there. However, as a public figure he does have the responsibility of trying to investigate his offensive and dangerous claims regarding vaccines.
      Listen, I’m vegan he is vegan, we were on good terms. But now I see he is one of those vegans who behave all enlightened and think they’ve discovered the fountain of youth and that legumes cure cancer…

    • another Nina says:

      I like Novak and respect him and his wife for their charity activities. I also have heard that he had many health problems in his youth. I remember how a very credible commentator on Russian TV (Anna Dmitrieva) told a story that he could not complete a single match during youth competition in Wimbledon without a help of a doctor. He would lay down practically unconscious with his lips turning blue and everybody was really scared for him. They called him “a child of war” and he had many problems to take care of. My personal perception is that he had heart-related problems and may be he did not want to reveal it for general public. Gluten-related sounds much easier to discuss.

    • MMC says:

      Well, his mum’s Croatian, and he’s always been friendly with Croatian athletes and he’s by far the most popular foreign tennis player in Croatia, so I don’t think it’s that weird.

      Đoković has always been a bit prone to pseudoscience nonsense ( I don’t think he’s an anti-vaxxer though), but his heart is in the right place. I still like him a lot better than Federer.

      • horseandhound says:

        I really like federer. I’m a big fan. but I also like novak. as far as I can tell, he’s a very good person. he gives a lot to charity. and he is very curious and inquisitive and, unlike most athletes, he’s interested in so many different topics…including spirituality and what you call pseudoscience. I like people who are open and not shallow. but, yeah, if he doesn’t vaccinate his kids, I’m not okay with that. that puts everybody at risk. somebody who really understands these topics, some doctor, should talk to him and explain it to him. I don’t think he either dumb or mean. and about vaccine for the covid virus…everybody is afraid of taking a vaccine that’s new. it’s far more comforting to know something indeed works and has worked for ages.

  12. Amy says:

    This isn’t nice of me but I honestly can’t with these anti Vaxers and if they want to die then fine but I want a vaccine and I want it to be required to attend schools. Then anyone who doesn’t want to get it can risk it and if they die then buy idiot. Which I know is terrible but I just can’t deal with these idiots being anti-vaccine it is endangering everyone else they are just selfish terrible people

  13. Unchatenfrance says:

    Oh FFS. There was a smallpox outbreak in Yugoslavia in 1972 – decades after it had been eradicated in Europe – that surely his parents remember. It was brought swiftly under control through vaccination. This is maddening.

  14. HMC says:

    All the antivaxxers seem to conveniently forget that there are other long term effects from contracting a vaccine preventable illness. Measles related blindness. Post polio syndrome. Even COVID19 will have long lasting after effects that will affect quality and quantity of life. We just don’t know yet. But some patients are already on kidney dialysis because of COVID19. Long term lung damage. Its already a mess and we’re not even into long term permanent effect yet.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Measles also attacks your immune system and can permanently weaken specific and non-specific immune response, which can lead to reinfection by other viruses and bacteria to which you previously had immunity. It’s not really a disease to mess around with.

  15. whatWHAT? says:

    “I’ll continue to research on this topic”

    oh, is that right? At which university or lab will you be doing this “research”?

    Oh, you mean you’ll just continue to watch sketchy YouTube videos and read info on fringe websites? OK, then.

  16. Ferdinand says:

    Here in Mexico we had a measles outbreak during February I think. Which was weird and it was attributed to antivaxxer parents. We even had more cases of measles than Covid for a while (again, back in February). And they even called people who were born from 83 to 96 to re take the vaccine.

    But the truth is, measles is coming back and some other countries are reporting it, too.
    What’s frightening is that people who were vaccinated were getting it as well.

    • Veronica S. says:

      It’s unfortunately one of the diseases that they’ve found the titer levels decrease in efficacy over time. Most people who received it as a child are recommended to be revaccinated in their 30-40s.

  17. TyrantDestroyed says:

    So uneducated… He can always choose to retire and go and live in the middle of nowhere but I guess his greed, sorry I mean his passion will be more important than his personal beliefs and he will get the vaccine while shouting to the world that it is an imposition and a way to control us.

  18. Marie says:

    There are already many countries that require certain vaccinations to enter – not sure why he’s whining about the possibility of this one.

  19. Hotsauceinmybag says:

    Oh, so he clarified that he’s still anti vaccinations. Got it, got it.

    I don’t follow tennis so I didn’t know who he was before this. Eff him and his poisonous views

  20. Veronica S. says:

    Well, then you don’t need to travel lol. You don’t get to be a potential Patient Zero for other countries. I 100% support banning unvaccinated people from entering other countries unless they’ve got legitimate medical excuses not to be.

  21. anniefannie says:

    Always suspected this guy was a douche, now confirmed. I think fame reveals flaws and his moronic views are taking center court, take a bow asshole, you’re excused

  22. Trillian says:

    If Covid-19 attacked the brain instead of the lungs, sooo many people would have immunity already.

  23. Sof says:

    Ok, he is anti-vaxxer.
    However, I think the statement talks about something else: athletes are concerned about being forced to “take the vaccine that is yet to be developed” in order to work. They will be forced to go back as soon as the first vaccine is there, so probably they are scared it’s not enough as there is not much information about the virus.

  24. Zia says:

    I have been disappointed to say the least, that you push vaccines on this column. Vaccination comes with its own risks and mandating vaccines is NOT the way to have a healthy society. It is a way to dumb the people down though and vaccines can be risky for some people. The term “anti vexxer” Is an insult to the people who choose to have critical thinking regarding what they INJECT into their bodies. Bill Gates has a HUGE depopulation agenda. Do you think his whole vaccine program is about HEALTH? NO. It is a bout depopulation which could mean a number of things. PLEASE stop giving medical advice on this column, This is supposed to be a celebrity escapism column and now you are here pushing a DANGEROUS agenda in regards to the global vaccine mandate. I have always loved this site. But now Im not so sure. If you scrub this comment because it does not fall inside your “pro-vaxx” guidlines, I will simply post about you doing that elsewhere. This is not a derogatory or insulting comment. Im simply saying that freedom of choice and autonomy over ones body is CRUCIAL. Other wise YOU ARE PROMOTING FASCISM!

  25. PrincessK says:

    I am no fan of Djokovic but there is no denying that he is intelligent. Currently there is an almighty rush to be the first to market a vaccine because certain pharmaceutical companies and countries stand to make billions, this is why many people are being cautious, not necessarily that they do not believe in vaccines.

  26. Kate says:

    With respect to general vaccination, I am extremely pro vaccination. However, I can kind of understand his viewpoint on this very limited point. I feel like, at least in the US, there’s a rush to pushing through anti-covid drugs without any testing as to whether they work in order to open the economy and if that’s what happens with a vaccine here as well then I can’t say that I blame him for wanting to take a minute and evaluate if he wants to take that vaccine.

    He’s saying we don’t have adequate information about a covid vaccine and…he’s right? Because there isn’t one? Not sure I really understand all the hate about his clarified statement.