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Olympic officials debate athlete priority of COVID-19 vaccine

Olympic officials have crossed words over the possible prioritisation of athletes receiving the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the Tokyo Games.

dick pound olympic officials debate priority of covid-19 vaccine tokyo canada

The debate follows the suggestion, made by International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound, to give priority of the vaccine to athletes who will be competing in the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

The Canadian also communicated his confidence that this years Olympics will be able to go ahead as planned.

"It's a decision for each country to make," said Pound, speaking to Sky News.

"And there will be people saying they are jumping the queue, but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes — to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character and level — I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that."

Pound's words were in contradiction of IOC president Thomas Bach, who declared that athletes should not be prioritised over key workers and the vulnerable in September last year, as well as Canadian Olympic Committee CEO and secretary general David Shoemaker.

Shoemaker told CBC News in a statement: "Developments regarding a vaccine are being closely monitored, as are the statements from the IOC and the Organizing Committee, but they do not change our current preparation for Tokyo 2020 because we cannot assume that vaccines will be widely available, how they will be distributed or when they will be available for Canadian athletes.

"We will continue to safeguard the health and safety of our athletes, their families, and their communities on the road to Tokyo, and our actions will be guided by our Chief Medical Officer and Canadian public health officials, as we wait for the IOC, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the Japanese government to further communicate COVID-19 countermeasures and related requirements."

Elsewhere, the British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Andy Anson told Sky News that he was having high-level government conversations with regards to getting athletes and support staff vaccines in time for the Olympic Games that starts in less than 200 days.

"The priority has to be the people who need it most – frontline workers, the elderly and the vulnerable," started Ansen, speaking to the PA news agency.

“There will come a time, hopefully ahead of the Olympic Games, when the athletes can be considered for vaccination, but we’ll only do that when it’s appropriate.”

Japan has today declared a state of emergency after a resurgence of the virus in the country, with reports indicating that the cases are at the highest they've been since the start of pandemic. The country is currently in the process of approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is currently rolled out in a number of countries across the world, including the UK.

Author: Jake Wilkin