A spokesman for the Greek government has pushed back on Stefanos Tsitsipas’ comments in which he said he would only get vaccinated for COVID-19 if it became mandatory to compete in tennis.
“He does not have the knowledge and studies to assess the need for vaccinations,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou was quoted as saying in Greek press reports.
“Stefanos Tsitsipas is a great athlete, his skills in sports and his contribution to sports in the country is unquestionable.
“What is at stake, however, is his ability to assess the need for vaccinations or whether the vaccine has been tested for a sufficient period of time. And … he has neither the knowledge nor the studies nor the research work that would allow him to form an opinion about it.”
The 23-year-old world number three from Greece caused a stir at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this week when he told reporters that he worried about the side effects of the vaccine.
“I am not against vaccines, but I don’t see any reason for someone of my age to do it – it hasn’t been tested enough and it has side effects – as long as it’s not mandatory, everyone can decide for themselves,” he told Greek press at the tournament on Wednesday.
Oikonomou encouraged people to instead listen to health policy experts and said Tsitsipas and other celebrities should be careful with their words given their huge platforms.
“Those who through their excellent performance in other places are also a point of reference for wider social groups, it would be good to be doubly careful in expressing such views,” he said.
The COVID-19 vaccine has divided opinion within tennis.
World number one Novak Djokovic said in April he hoped the COVID-19 vaccine would not become mandatory for players to compete and has declined to answer questions regarding his own vaccination status.
However, fellow 20-time Grand Slam winners Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal feel athletes need to play their part to get life back to some form of normality.