The International Olympic Committee has accepted an offer from Pfizer to provide coronavirus vaccines to athletes and support staff ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Games.
The deal could be a major boost for the British Olympic Association in its efforts to get Team GB athletes vaccinated prior to the start of the Games in July.
Following moves by the respective governments of Italy and South Korea last week, Britain found itself in the position of being the only one of the top 10 medal-winning nations from Rio 2016, besides Japan, not to guarantee its athletes priority doses.
The BOA had resisted emulating a number of other national Olympic committees in lobbying for vaccine priority, in the hope that the natural roll-out of vaccines nationwide – or a government change of heart – would solve the issue.
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IOC president Thomas Bach said on Thursday that a memorandum of understanding signed with Pfizer means the company would donate enough vaccines to cover a significant number of athletes in Tokyo, although the exact number of available vaccines is not clear.
Bach said: “This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts.
“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.”
A BOA spokesperson said: “Given the success of the domestic rollout our ambition remains to get all Olympians fully vaccinated before Tokyo and we’re working closely with Government to bring this about.
“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.”