Indigenous health and immunisation experts say confusion over new pneumococcal vaccination requirements likely led to some Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander AFL players wrongly receiving direction to have the vaccine before entering Queensland hubs.
On Saturday, the AFL issued a public apology to Indigenous players and their families for not giving them and the AFLPA clear enough information about pneumococcal vaccinations some received when entering Queensland hubs.
Dr Frank Beard - from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, and senior lecturer at The University of Sydney School of Public Health - said he could see no reason for all Indigenous AFL players to have a pneumococcal vaccine upon entering Queensland.
The only reason any adult of the typical AFL playing age would need that vaccine would be if they had underlying health conditions that made them more susceptible to pneumococcal.
"There may have been some confusion about the recommendations," Dr Beard said.
"You can see why there's potential for quite a bit of confusion here.
"The pneumococcal vaccination schedule has always been relatively complicated compared to others. And there were some major changes as of July 1 this year."
Pneumococcal disease can cause mild infection, pneumonia and other life threatening infections, and Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia are at heightened risk from it.
However, you do not need to be an Indigenous Australian to be at higher risk from pneumococcal; diabetes, smokers and cancer sufferers of any descent, for example, are also at more risk from the disease.
The new regulations, introduced earlier in July, say adults with such medical risk factors should be vaccinated no matter their age.
"The main crux of the changes is to streamline requirements so it's the same recommended schedule of vaccination for all adults in risk groups," Dr Beard said.
All Australians are meant to have a pneumococcal immunisation as infants and once you turn 70. However, Indigenous Australians receive an extra booster in infancy and at age 50 if they live in Queensland, WA, the NT and SA.
Indigenous health expert at the Australian Paramedic Practitioners College, Professor Dennis Pashen said there may have been further confusion about children of Aboriginal players coming into Queensland for extended periods, given states like Victoria don't require Indigenous children get the extra vaccination.
"They're probably saying if these guys are coming in, they're probably exposed to pneumococcal disease and probably have kids and other contacts they'll be coming in contact with," he said. "So they're maybe suggesting for the kids' sake, and young players' sake, and the community that it is a good protection for them and those around them.
"That's the only reason I could think of."
Port Adelaide's head of football Chris Davies said on Monday the AFL told them that their Indigenous players required the vaccine before heading into Queensland and that they had no problem receiving them.
The AFLPA said they are continuing to work on gathering information to determine their next steps.
The AFL and the AFL Indigenous Players' Association have been contacted for comment.