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International Games
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
Pound - Athletes COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Most Realistic Way

Senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Richard Pound has claimed prioritizing athletes for the COVID-19 vaccine would be the "most realistic way" of ensuring the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games take place.

Uncertainty remains over whether this year's Olympics and Paralympics in the Japanese capital will go ahead with less than 200 days to go before the event is due to open.

The Games were postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the health crisis seems to have worsened after the discovery of the new variant of the virus, thought to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

Host country Japan is one of the nations to detect the new variant and is now on the cusp of a state of emergency after reporting a record of 5,307 daily coronavirus cases today.

There is hope the development of a number of COVID-19 vaccines will allow Tokyo 2020 to take place safely, however, with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine currently being administered in the countries such as the UK and the United States, while it is awaiting approval in Japan.

Pound denied prioritizing athletes for the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure the Games go ahead would cause a public outcry.

"In Canada where we might have 300 or 400 hundred athletes - to take 300 or 400 vaccines out of several million in order to have Canada represented at an international event of this stature, character, and level - I don't think there would be any kind of a public outcry about that," Pound told Sky News.

"It's a decision for each country to make and there will be people saying they are jumping the queue but I think that is the most realistic way of it going ahead."

IOC President Thomas Bach has previously encouraged athletes to have a COVID-19 vaccination before Tokyo 2020 but insisted it would not be an entry requirement.

He revealed the IOC was in talks with manufacturers and other health experts but said the organization would not jump the queue in front of those in greater need of a vaccination.

"We made it clear from the very beginning that the first priorities are for the nurses, medical doctors, and everybody who keeps our society alive, despite the coronavirus crisis," Bach said during a visit to the Tokyo National Stadium in November.

"These are the people who deserve to be the first ones to be vaccinated."

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23rd to August 8th, with the Paralympics due to follow from August 24th to September 5th.

Organizers plan to have a number of COVID-19 countermeasures in place should the Games go ahead.
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