(Reuters) – South Korean athletes traveling to Tokyo for the Olympics later this year will receive COVID-19 vaccines starting this week, the Yonhap news agency reported. About 100 athletes and coaches will receive their first vaccinations on Thursday, while another 500 will be vaccinated the first week of May before traveling to Japan for the Games, Yonhap said, citing the Korea Olympic and Sports Committee (KSOC). The KSOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. The Games, which were delayed a year due to the pandemic, will be held from July 23 to August. 8. Nearly 2.7 million South Koreans out of a population of 52 million have received their first dose of vaccine, bringing the vaccination rate to just over 4%. The low rate compares with a rate of 41% in the United States, according to Reuters data. COVID-19 vaccines are not required to participate in the Olympics, but are recommended. Some countries have already said they will vaccinate Olympians as a priority, while others are considering the situation. The Australian Olympic Committee will begin vaccinating athletes next week with a private contractor to avoid overloading the public health system, its chief executive said. South Korea has set an ambitious goal of injecting 70% of its population in September and achieving herd immunity in November. The country reported 775 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 120,673 and the total number of deaths to 1,821.
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