Tennis Racket and ball

Blog: Game – Set – Vax!

With multiple twists and turns throughout the Novak Djokovic story  – Director of Public Health, Matt Ashton shares his thoughts on the importance of elite sports stars promoting vaccine confidence and why there are no real winners in this situation.

“I’ve been following the Djokovic story not only with my public health hat on, but from the perspective of a sports fan too. It’s a real shame that the world is being deprived of seeing a top player compete at a major tournament – especially after the disruption and restrictions we’ve all experienced in the last 2 years.

However, the pandemic has very clearly demonstrated that some things in life are more important!

As of today, over 136 million vaccines have been administered in the UK – a phenomenal achievement – just like Djokovic’s 20 grand slams.

Djokovic had stressed that he isn’t anti vax – but had chosen not to have the Covid-19 vaccine – a personal choice, and something that has been lost in many reports.  He also shared that he had recently recovered from Covid, so not enough time had elapsed for him to get vaccinated.

This is a particularly interesting point, as some countries had previously accepted evidence of a recent infection in place of vaccination – which raises the whole debate around natural versus vaccine acquired immunity.

We now know that prior immunity from Alpha or Delta doesn’t provide sufficient protection against the Omicron variant, and that in general, vaccination and getting your booster provides broader, longer lasting immunity and protection from getting seriously unwell.

The latest data shows that the booster vaccination dose gives around 88% effectiveness against hospitalisation for omicron.  Vaccination works!

My view is that elite sports stars and leaders need to recognise the importance of the role they play both on and off the ‘pitch’.

I was really impressed with Jurgen Klopp’s recent blog to Liverpool fans – and that he doesn’t apologise for his views encouraging vaccination and how we should listen to experts. He uses his platform to build confidence in the vaccine, which is probably one of the main reasons vaccine uptake at the club is so high.

Public health at its core is about population health – protecting everybody, and especially the most disadvantaged members of our society, not just the ones who are lucky enough to be able to, or who can afford to.

If you still need to get vaccinated, it’s never too late – please do it as soon as you can, it’s safe and effective. 

Over 100,000 people in Liverpool people got vaccinated during December – 6,000 of those were first doses and 7,500 of these were second doses.

If it’s been at least 12 weeks since your second jab – get your booster too, as it’s providing additional protection against getting seriously ill from omicron and cutting hospitalisations and subsequent deaths.

If you’ve recently recovered from Covid-19 (like Djokovic) you should still get vaccinated to protect yourself from future infections.

You only need to wait 28 days from when you tested positive.

Book ahead via the national booking system or ‘drop-in’ at clinics across the city.

Liverpool Waterfront