“We see mandates as a last resort … in the face of a large epidemic,” he said.
“So yes, there are circumstances in which vaccine mandates are supported by WHO but, again, it is subjected to the basic principle that the best way to get people vaccinated is to inform them, to educate, to have a dialogue and to address people’s genuine concerns.
“We always ask that those mandates be clear, be explicit, be time-limited and at the same time … governments continue to explain to people why they’re doing things and continue to try and convince people of the benefits of vaccine rather than reverting to mandates as a single approach.”
The director of WHO’s Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals, Katherine O’Brien, added that no one should be denied access to international travel based on their vaccination status because not everyone in the world has the same access to vaccines.
“Free and full access to safe and effective vaccines is the absolute precondition before a mandate is made and that is a grounding principle,” she said.
“It’s also a grounding reason why there is not a requirement from WHO, [there is not] a recommendation around any requirement for crossing international borders, although the status of somebody’s vaccination may be considered with respect to other conditions that may be imposed on people through the course of their travel.”
Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
While Djokovic won an exemption despite having ample access to vaccines, Australia’s strict stance nonetheless denied other players the opportunity to compete in the Australian Open.
Russian player Nata Vikhlyantseva said she was not able to travel to Australia because she received the Sputnik V vaccine, which has not been listed for emergency use by the WHO or recognised by Australian authorities.
“I just feel that I can also play and I’m ready for all the tests –just give me a chance to play,” she told Britain’s ITV News.
Seventeen-year-old Indian player Aman Dahiya, meanwhile, was denied an exemption to compete in the junior event because he is not vaccinated – his country has not yet started vaccinating people under the age of 18.
Australian Open organisers told Dahiya that he would not be able to compete unless he was vaccinated.