Australian athletes competing in this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be given priority access to coronavirus vaccines before departing.
The federal government has announced that approximately 2,050 athletes and support staff travelling to Japan for the delayed Olympics and Paralympics will be considered a priority group in the troubled vaccine rollout, Xinhua reports.
Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, said that vaccines would safeguard Australians traveling to Tokyo in July and August.
“We want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely,” he said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
As of Tuesday, there had been about 1.9 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered in Australia, with the rollout having been plagued by supply issues and safety concerns over Astrazeneca’s vaccine.
However, Sport Minister Richard Colbeck reassured Australians that the decision to prioritize Olympians would not delay vaccinations for vulnerable people.
“While vulnerable Australians remain an absolute priority as the vaccine rollout continues, National Cabinet understands the pressure our high-performance athletes have been facing as the Tokyo Games draw closer,” he said.
“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics, but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”
The Tokyo Olympics is set to start on July 23, having been postponed in 2020 amid the pandemic.
According to the statement, the vaccinations will comprise both Pfizer and AstraZeneca (for team members aged over 50 years).
The Pfizer shot is the preferred vaccine for team members under the age of 50.