The chances of Team GB being fully vaccinated against Covid before the Tokyo Olympics have received a significant boost after the IOC struck a deal with Pfizer to donate free doses to competitors and staff.
Britain had been one of the few leading countries, along with Japan, not to guarantee its athletes priority doses, with the British Olympic Association not wanting to be seen to “jump the queue”.
However the BOA was quick to welcome the memorandum of understanding between the International Olympic Committee and Pfizer and BioN Tech to make the vaccine available to those going to Tokyo.
“Given the success of the domestic rollout our ambition remains to get all Olympians fully vaccinated before Tokyo and we’re working closely with the government to bring this about,” a BOA spokesman said. “The news of Pfizer and BioN Tech’s donation of vaccines is welcome, and we will fully explore all options out of respect to our hosts in Japan, and for clear health and performance reasons.”
Vaccination will not be mandatory but the IOC says it expects a “significant number” of participants to have received the jab before the Games.
The IOC also made clear that the vaccines for athletes and staff would not be taken out of existing programmes, but would be “be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world.”
“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” said the IOC president, Thomas Bach.
“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible.
“By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities.
That message was reinforced by the IPC president, Andrew Parsons, who said that they were taking “every possible measure” to ensure the Paralympics was safe.
“Prior to this announcement, we estimated around 60 per cent of our national paralympic committees would be vaccinated ahead of the Games,” he said. “Thanks to this wonderful donation, we will now work with athletes and Games participants all around the world and invite them to take vaccines where and when possible.”
Regardless of the numbers vaccinated, athletes going to Tokyo will face a very different Olympic experience, with strict rules governing what they can and cannot do.
They include regular Covid tests, no visits to restaurants and bars, and a requirement to arrive no earlier than five days before the Games and leave within two days of competing.