Australian Olympians and Paralympians are set to be vaccinated before the Tokyo Olympics in July with most athletes set to be covered in phase 2B.
News Corp revealed that, while the final timetable for the vaccine rollout has yet to be released publicly, Australian athletes would likely get their first shots in May and second round in July, well before the start of the rescheduled games.
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Some Paralympic athletes will be eligible for to be vaccinated in earlier phases but federal sports minister Richard Colbeck told News Corp that the athletes wouldn’t need to jump the queue to get the vaccination.
“The clear priority for us is residents and staff in aged care facilities, they have to be first as they are the most vulnerable. That is the government’s priority and the advice we have received,” Colbeck told News Corp.
“Most athletes will get access in Phase 2B, which will be in late May, and June, which will give them time to be vaccinated prior to them heading off to the Olympics.
“Of course, everything will be dependent on supplies and obviously they will have to get some advice about how that will sit with their preparations and training and things of that nature.”
The news was reportedly passed on to sports officials earlier this week.
It comes at a time where there has been plenty of speculation about the event.
It reportedly has been unpopular in Japan to continue with Olympic plans while the pandemic continues with The Times reporting that Japan was looking to cancel the 2021 Games. The reported was flatly denied by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Suga swatted away the report in an address to parliament in which he declared the Games will go ahead as scheduled.
“I am determined to organise a safe Games while working closely with the metropolitan government of Tokyo, the organising committee and the IOC,” Suga said.
Australian Olympic officials also denied the reports.
But it didn’t stop Florida’s chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis from volunteering the US state to host the 2021 games.
The Games will no doubt be controversial regardless of what happens but the International Olympic Committee has also had to weigh in.
IOC president Thomas Bach had to defending forging on with the Olympics as not being irresponsible.
Japan are in a third wave of infections with many locals against the idea of the Olympics.
Bach did say that athletes shouldn’t skip the queue for COVID vaccines and promised the event would be safe.
“Our task is to organise Olympic Games and not to cancel Olympic Games. This is why we are working day and night to organise safe Olympic Games,” he said.
“We are not speculating whether the Games will take place. We are working on how the Games will take place,” he added, explaining that the IOC will issue guidelines for athletes and teams next month.
But some Canadian athletes have hit out against the thought of getting moved to the front of the queue
“We really need the vaccine to get into the arms of the people who are most at risk, those in long-term care homes, those in the front lines,” Canadian 75kg Olympic Champion wrestler Erica Wiebe told Reuters.
Similarly, racewalker Evan Dunfee said it “would sour public opinion and just turn the community against us”.
“Our value as athletes is only as strong as our community,” he said. “We’re nothing without our communities.”
He told Reuters he’d be unlikely to be vaccinated before the games.
The Australian news will help organisers as the nation joins the likes of South Korea, Denmark, Belgium and Hungary to reveal plans to vaccinate athletes while Israel has already started.
“The AOC is confident the vaccine rollout will see our Olympic athletes vaccinated ahead of the Tokyo Games without queue jumping health workers and vulnerable Australians,” AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said.
“We appreciate there are still details to be finalised, but our planning has always assumed the vaccine may not be available.
“The potential timetable we have been given is very welcome news and gives us even greater confidence we can achieve our mission. ”