A ROSE of Tralee contestant is planning to quit the Irish beauty pageant if she is required to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
Ohio Rose Christine Smyth says not enough is known about the vaccine and believes she should have the “freedom” to choose whether she has one.
The Irish dancer is the only Rose selected so far for the 2022 competition.
This year’s festival, which was due to be hosted by Daithi O’Se, was cancelled for a second successive year due to Covid-19.
But regardless of the pandemic, Smyth told Radio Kerry she is hesitant to get a jab.
She said: “I personally am not vaccinated but I’m happy to have the freedom to make that choice.
“I’m reluctant just because there are so many unknown currently right now, I know a lot of people who haven’t had any problems, but you hear the other side of the story as well and I feel like once it’s done, it can’t be undone.
“It might look completely different next year,” she added.
“So, I think we just have to cross that bridge when we come to it. Health would be my priority. I wouldn’t want to put my own health at risk to partake in something that is so extremely special, but I wouldn’t choose that over my own personal health.”
The 23-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, has family roots in County Clare.
An avid Irish dancer, she currently runs her very own dance school, The Smyth School of Dance, which she named after her late father.
“My future aspirations are to be an Irish dance teacher, wife, and mother someday,” Smyth says in her official Rose of Tralee bio.
“I teach classes to adults, children, and special needs students so that all may experience the joy of dance. My background as a Regional Champion and World Medal Holder paired with my passion for teaching inspires my life goals.
“I am a student at Baldwin Wallace University studying Arts Management, Entrepreneurship, & Dance. I love spending my free time with family, and I am so grateful to be a part of the Cleveland Irish Community,” she adds.
Rose of Tralee International Festival CEO Anthony O'Gara confirmed the cancellation of this year’s competition last month.
He said in a statement: "Last year was the first time in our history that the Festival was postponed, and doing so again is difficult for everyone involved and of course for those supporters that look forward to celebrating our global Irish community each August, but we are confident it is the right decision as we all play our part right now in keeping each other safe and well.
"The Rose of Tralee International Festival operates on a yearlong basis, in Irish communities worldwide; and we will continue to harness the goodwill of our extended Rose Family in supporting communities and charitable efforts over the next 12 months.
"Similarly, we will each have a role to play in restoring our community and local economy following this pandemic, and we look forward to coming together in celebration in August 2022."
"In the meantime, we salute the leadership and the selfless efforts of frontline and support staff everywhere; and among them the efforts by many of our Rose family."
The Rose of Tralee will return in August 2022.