Basketball: New Zealand Breakers release Tai Webster after star guard refuses Covid-19 vaccine

The New Zealand Breakers have agreed to release Tai Webster after the star guard refused the Covid-19 vaccine.

Webster, the breakout star from last season, inked a new two-year contract with the Breakers in July but will no longer be with the club after he decided not to get vaccinated due to “personal reasons”.

Webster was released by mutual consent.

The Breakers look set to start the upcoming ANBL season scheduled for November 18 in Australia due to the Delta outbreak.

The Victorian state government unveiled its roadmap out of Covid lockdown yesterday where activities and freedoms will be available only to fully vaccinated people.

Premier Daniel Andrews has ruled out interstate travel occurring at 70 per cent vaccination levels, which modelling suggests the state will reach on October 26.

It is not until vaccination levels reach 80 per cent that interstate travel will be considered and it still will be subject to other states’ rules.

Breakers owner Matt Walsh says he respects Tai Webster’s decision to remain unvaccinated.

“Tai was amazing for us last year and we wish him the absolute best. I fully support each player’s freedom of choice in regards to the vaccine.

“The club will keep the door open for Tai, but unfortunately we are living in extraordinary times and without being vaccinated he will not have freedom of travel which would allow him to play for us this season.”

Last week, Walsh told Gold AM’s Country Sport Breakfast that he respects “the freedom of choice” but the players will end up having to get vaccinated if they want to play.

“Almost everyone on our team is vaccinated. From what we understand, it’s going to be very, very difficult, if not impossible, for people to travel without double vaccinations. We’ve relayed that to our players.

“At the end of the day it’s their personal choice and I believe in that freedom of choice. I don’t think as employers it’s our job to say you have to do this. It’s just my personal opinion. But at the end of the day, it’s these guys’ livelihoods. If they want to play I think you’re going to have to be vaccinated and that’s just reality.”

How safe is the vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is very safe. It has been formally tested on more than 40,000 people – half received the vaccine, the other half a placebo which consisted of slightly salty water. Since it started being used widely, tens of millions of people have now received it.

In the trials, people were followed very closely for adverse events and the results between the vaccinated and unvaccinated were compared. People receiving the vaccine were more likely to experience more flu-like symptoms in the day or two afterwards and this was more noticeable after the second dose, but no events of concern were more common in the vaccine group.

Regulators are keeping a close eye on one event known as Bell’s palsy, which involves a temporary weakness of the face, based on excess cases in vaccinated people observed in the trials. However there are no safety concerns at this stage, as United States data shows no more observed cases than expected occurring after vaccination.

Since the vaccine was approved for widespread use, safety has been monitored very closely, and in large numbers of people it becomes possible to detect very rare events.

As with most vaccines, a small risk for a very severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis was detected. The risk of this happening after the Pfizer vaccine is around five per million doses. It occurs within minutes of receiving the vaccine and is treated immediately by the vaccinator, who is trained to manage it. This is why people are asked to stay at the vaccination clinic for up to half an hour after vaccination – just in case.

READ MORE: Why new vaccine is safe – your questions answered

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