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IOC secures vaccine supply for Olympic athletes

New agreement renews possibility competitors could be vaccinated before travelling to Japan

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Thursday that it had reached agreements with two major companies to supply vaccine doses for all athletes ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

The news is a significant step towards making the Games, already rescheduled and consistently unpopular in Japan, a safer event. It is particularly relevant for countries like Canada, Britain and Japan, where officials have decided against giving athletes early access to their domestic vaccine supply.

Related: Olympic officials release new athlete rulebook for Tokyo 2021

The IOC signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE to donate doses of the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine to Games athletes, and their delegations, from National Olympic and Paralympic Committees. In its statement, the IOC is careful to specify that “any additional doses delivered by Pfizer and BioNTech will not be taken out of existing programmes, but will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world.”

Protecting athletes and communities

“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,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.

“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,” Bach added. “By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities.”

The news is the latest development in the IOC and Tokyo Organizing Committee’s efforts to safely hold a major international event in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. Last week, the IOC released extensive safety guidelines for athlete behaviour at the Games. Earlier in 2021, it was announced that no international fans would be allowed to attend events in Tokyo.