How Tennis and Djokovic Are Pushing Against the U.S. Covid Vaccine Rule

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How Tennis and Djokovic Are Pushing Against the U.S. Covid Vaccine Rule

King, who worked with the Biden administration last year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that guarantees girls and women in America equal opportunity in sports, reached out to her contacts at the White House on his behalf. The Professional Tennis Players Association, the fledgling organization that Djokovic has spearheaded since 2020, worked its contacts, too.

IMG, the sports and entertainment conglomerate that represents Djokovic, enlisted its government relations and immigration teams, which often work with the government on regulatory matters and to ensure entry for its foreign clients under routine circumstances.

For IMG, the interest goes beyond its relationship with Djokovic. The company owns the Miami Open. IMG executives reached out to Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, who along with Senator Rick Scott, another Florida Republican, wrote a letter urging the Biden administration to end the vaccination requirement.

One person who did not get involved is Ari Emanuel, the chief executive of Endeavor, which owns IMG. Emanuel’s brother, Rahm Emanuel, was chief of staff to Obama during his first term. His other brother, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, was a health policy adviser in the Obama White House. While Ari Emanuel may eventually get involved on Djokovic’s behalf, it’s not clear whether that would help. It could also backfire, causing the Biden administration to worry about the optics of doing a favor for someone with access to the highest levels of the government.

For Haas and others who support Djokovic, and even some experts on infectious diseases, the continued ban on unvaccinated foreign travelers remains baffling. There is no requirement to receive boosters. So anyone who two years ago received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was only moderately effective and whose health benefits have likely long since lapsed, is able to enter the country, but unvaccinated individuals are not, even if they test negative before boarding a flight.

Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, is a huge proponent of the vaccine, for the health of those who are vaccinated and everyone around them, but she acknowledged a vaccination from two years ago would probably provide little protection today. Also, she said it’s unlikely that a rule like the one in place would compel more unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated.

“If they haven’t done it by now, I don’t know if it will provide any inducement,” she said.

A spokesman for the C.D.C. said last month that the rule is the result of a presidential proclamation that is separate from the health emergency provisions that the Biden administration plans to end on May 11. The travel rule will end only when President Biden decides to lift it.

The Biden administration has said it will defer to health experts regarding its decision on this rule and all other policies related to Covid-19.