AFL Apologises To Indigenous Players Over Mandatory Pneumococcal Vaccinations

he AFL has apologised to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) after the Queensland Government told Indigenous players they would need a pneumococcal vaccination before entering the state.

The AFL released a statement saying the league understands it could have gained and provided more information for players and the AFLPA about the Queensland Government requirement.

“The AFL apologises to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players and staff and the AFLPA for not providing sufficient clarity around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players receiving a pneumococcal vaccination ahead of entering Queensland and for any distress this has caused them and their families,” the statement said.

“The AFL acknowledges it could have obtained and shared more information from the Queensland Government health authorities regarding the vaccination including the underlying health safety benefits and that it can improve its processes in providing information to support club doctors in ensuring cultural safety in provision of health to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“The AFL is committed to working closely with the AFLPA and the players, our clubs, and our doctors to resolve the situation,” the statement read.

The apology came after AFLPA CEO, Paul Marsh, said the AFLPA were made aware of the vaccination requirement in the past 48 hours and were concerned about the fact the vaccinations were not discussed as part of the return to play protocols.

“In the past 48 hours the AFLPA has become aware of Indigenous players being required to have pneumococcal vaccinations prior to entering AFL High Performance Centres [in Queensland],” Marsh said.

“We are very concerned about this issue and since becoming aware of it, we’ve had various conversations with players and the AFL, and are in the process of gathering more information to inform what actions we may take.

“The fact that these vaccinations were not discussed with the AFLPA as part of the return play protocols or otherwise, is a significant issue we have raised with the AFL.

“We are now working directly with players to ensure they understand their rights and options available to them regarding any requested vaccinations,” he said.

As part of Queensland’s biosecurity protocols, all players and staff were required to get flu vaccinations in order to enter the state, which was agreed to by the AFLPA as part of the return to play protocols.

The national immunisation program requires Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who are children or over the age of 50 to get vaccinations for pneumococcal but has no guidelines for people in the age bracket of the Indigenous AFL players and staff.