Japan to vaccinate Olympic athletes ahead of others

Tokyo, May 12 (EFE).- Japan is set to vaccinate its athletes participating in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games ahead of the rest of the population, the organizing committee said on Wednesday amid growing opposition to the event among Japanese citizens.

The Japanese sportspersons set to compete in the Games will receive part of the anti-Covid vaccines to be supplied by Pfizer and BioNTech as part of an agreement between the companies and the International Olympic Committee, said the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto.

The announcement confirmed reports in this regard published by local media, which had generated resentment among citizens as well as doubts among Japanese athletes over whether it was ethical to receive the jab ahead of others.

Hasimoto said in an online press conference on Wednesday that she wanted to create an atmosphere whee athletes would not feel bad about getting vaccinated, while discussing a meeting between the organizers and the executive board of the IOC.

She said that the special vaccination program was launched because the national vaccination campaign had not seen much progress, while the IOC had recommended that all international athletes participating in the Olympics be vaccinated.

Japan launched its vaccination campaign on Feb. 11, but has so far administered at least one vaccine dose to only 4 percent of its population, including all health workers and part of the citizens above the age of 85, considered the priority groups.

However, the Olympics organizers have no plans to vaccinate approximately 78,000 workers and volunteers – set to help organize the Games – on a priority basis, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto admitted while answering a question.

He also stressed that the possibility of canceling the Olympics due to the pandemic situation had not been discussed “at any point” during meetings with the IOC.

IOC President Thomas Bach canceled a Japan visit scheduled for next week after the state of emergency in many parts of the country, including Tokyo, was extended to the end of this month.

According to latest polls, 60-70 percent of the Japanese citizens are in favor of canceling or postponing the Olympics due to the pandemic, and an online petition to cancel the Games has gathered more than 330,000 signatures since being launched last week.

The number of Covid patients with serious symptoms in Japan touched a new daily record – 1,189 – on Wednesday, contributing to a growing shortage of hospital beds for critical patients. EFE


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