Vaccines ‘encouraged’ but not mandatory for athletes in Tokyo: Coates By Reuters

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response in early trial

© Reuters. International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates attends a press conference in Tokyo

By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Athletes are encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before the Tokyo Olympics, but will not be required, IOC Vice President John Coates said on Thursday. “It is not mandatory, we cannot do that,” Coates, head of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Tokyo Games, told reporters in Brisbane. “But it is certainly being encouraged and the IOC has an agreement with COVAX in which it is helping to facilitate the distribution of vaccines.” COVAX is the global vaccine exchange scheme of the World Health Organization. IOC President Thomas Bach said last month that it was up to national Olympic committees to coordinate access to vaccines with their governments, but he was not in favor of athletes “jumping the queue.” With the Games delayed scheduled to begin on July 23, Coates, who is also president of the Australian Olympic Committee, expected the country’s athletes to be vaccinated in June “at the latest.” Australia started launching the vaccine this week. Coates also said that the Japanese government was expected to make a decision on how many fans could attend the Olympics in April. Organizers hope to have spectators at the Games, although it is speculated that the event could be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “A decision on all the accredited people and everyone who bought tickets in Japan will certainly be there,” he said. “The Japanese government will make a final decision, it is the governments that decide these things about what is safe and, a little later, probably in March, April … a decision about the capacity of the place that we are going to have.” Coates said officials had to make the Athletes’ Village and facilities “the safest place in Tokyo.” “Last week we had four days of operational planning, now we are ready to look at the seats on the buses to make sure there is the correct distance,” he said. “Well that’s great, all of a sudden we need twice the bus fleet and there are a lot of buses involved.”

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