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Australian Government Considering Mass Vaccine Rollout For Olympic Athletes

Australian Olympic Team Launch

Australian Government Considering Mass Vaccine Rollout For Olympic Athletes

With less that 100 days to go before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the Australian government and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) are in talks to vaccinate approximately 1,000 athletes and staff in a mass roll-out to protect them from Japan’s surging COVID-19 numbers.

The news comes after the mass roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine was halted in Australia due to fears of blood-clotting in people under the age of 50, with the AOC asking athletes and staff to be given the less accessible Pfizer vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccine needs 12 weeks waiting time between doses, whilst Pfizer would be more suitable to games attendees, with just three weeks needed between doses.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the AOC made claims as to why athletes and staff should receive the vaccine before people in higher risk categories: “The Australian Olympic team will be travelling overseas in the next three months.”

“Our discussions with government revolve around how this requirement sits within the government’s rollout framework, taking into account the risk to athletes’ health and well-being.

“We think it is in the best interests of our Australian athletes to arrive in Tokyo safely and return safely [and] vaccination is an important ingredient in that ambition,” the statement read.

Under the Australian government’s vaccine rollout plan, most athletes would be in the phase 2b category, where currently, phase 1a and 1b are not being expected to be completed until the middle of the year.

The domestic vaccine talks come after a senior Japanese government official has admitted the Games may not even go ahead, with the country currently holding 36,000 active COVID-19 cases.

Secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, Toshihiro Nikai, said Japan may have to give up on the Games in a report for the Kyodo news agency: “What’s the meaning of the Olympics is we spread this infectious disease to many people during the Olympics?”

“If it’s a situation that’s absolutely impossible, we need to make a decision without hesitation,” Nikai said.

Asked about Nikai’s comments, the Tokyo Olympic organising committee said in a statement: “Prime Minister [Yoshihide] Suga has repeatedly expressed the government’s commitment to holding the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

“All our delivery partners including the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) are fully focused on hosting the Games this summer,” the statement said.

The cost for the cancellation of the Games stood at AUD$56 billion a few months ago.

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