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World Japan to vaccinate Olympic athletes before Games: reports

07:40  12 may  2021
07:40  12 may  2021 Source:   afp.com

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The International Olympic Committee is working with the World Health Organization to get all athletes vaccinated in a bid to save the Tokyo Games , The Telegraph reported on Friday. Fast-tracking the COVID-19 vaccines to competitors where national programs are yet to begin is the main priority in the And the national Olympic committees of the United States, Canada and Australia all said they were preparing to send teams to Japan . The statements from Canada and Australia contrast with last year, when they withdrew their athletes before officials took the unprecedented decision to postpone.

Japanese authorities have rushed to deny the accuracy of reports which claimed that Olympic athletes will jump the queue for the coronavirus vaccine , causing a social media storm. The east Asian nation currently lags behind other developed countries in getting its population vaccinated , with only 1 But Kyodo claimed to have spoken to officials too, who revealed that the possibility of guaranteeing Japan 's competitors had received both shots to recover by the 23 July opening ceremony of the Games was being explored. The scoop caused a furor on Japanese social media, with one user writing online

Japan plans to vaccinate its Olympic athletes before the Tokyo Games, domestic media reported Wednesday, a move that would place them ahead of the general population as the government faces pressure over a slow rollout.

The pandemic-postponed Games are scheduled to open on July 23 © Charly TRIBALLEAU The pandemic-postponed Games are scheduled to open on July 23

There was no immediate comment from Olympic organisers or Japan's Olympic Committee on the reports in the Nikkei and Yomiuri Shimbun dailies, which did not name their sources.

The newspapers said around 2,500 people including athletes and coaches would be included, with Japanese sports federations in charge of administering the jabs.

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Japan is considering vaccinating Olympic athletes ahead of the rest of the population. Japan ’s vaccination drive is far behind that of most major economies, with only one vaccine approved and roughly 1 million people having received a first dose since February, even as the country struggles with a rising number of new cases. The Kyodo news agency report claiming the government was considering the vaccine plan provoked outrage on social media, with many commentators noting that the original government plans for vaccinations gave priority to medical workers, elderly people and

Japan aims to vaccinate the majority of its population against Covid-19 by July, according to a report , meaning most of its more than 125 million residents could be inoculated by the time the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, the government’s top spokesman, said Wednesday that the government couldn’t announce a schedule before the country had approved a vaccine . Taro Kono, who was appointed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday as minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, took to Twitter to pour cold water on the reports .

Japan's government had previously denied it was considering a plan to vaccinate athletes ahead of the general population.

Earlier this month, US drug giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced a deal with the International Olympic Committee to provide vaccines for competitors and staff at the Tokyo Games.

They said initial doses for participating delegations would begin at the end of May, without specifying which teams would be involved.

Japan has so far only approved the Pfizer jab and the government has faced pressure for the comparatively slow rollout of its inoculation campaign as Tokyo and other areas battle new virus emergencies.

For now, only medical workers and the elderly are eligible for jabs, with no timeline yet set for the general population to receive them.

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A prominent Olympics official has suggested that nations ensure their Olympic athletes are prioritized early in the vaccination rollout to ensure the rearranged Games in Tokyo can go ahead as planned. "There will come a time, hopefully in late spring or summer ahead of the Olympic Games , when the athletes can be vaccinated . "But we'll do that when it's appropriate and when the government feels it's appropriate. With the UK Sport and DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) we're having conversations, but more about when the time is right."

A Kyodo news agency report , citing government officials, said Japan has begun looking into the possibility of ensuring its Olympic and Paralympic athletes are all vaccinated by the end of June. Others noted that Japan ’s original plan gives priority to medical workers, the elderly and those with chronic conditions, with ordinary citizens unlikely to get theirs before the summer. A number of test events for some sports have recently been canceled or postponed due to concerns about the pandemic, and on Tuesday leading business executive Hiroshi Mikitani wrote on Twitter that holding the Games

Polls show public dissatisfaction with the rollout, and the government has pledged to speed up the programme.

The Games, opening in just over 10 weeks, face continued controversy in Japan, where surveys show a majority oppose holding them this summer.

But in a potential bright spot for organisers, around 280 doctors have applied for just 200 volunteer positions at the Games, the Kyodo news agency reported Wednesday citing unnamed sources.

Organisers have come under fire for requesting medical volunteers step forward to help during the Games at a time when Japan's healthcare system is under pressure from a fourth virus wave.

Despite public opposition, organisers insist the Games can be held safely this summer, pointing to safety guidelines, increasing vaccination of athletes and a series of recent test events in Tokyo.

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