Growing numbers of Olympic athletes will compete without receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games were rescheduled for July 23rd to August 9th, 2021 after worldwide panic over the virus and extensive lockdowns.
According to ESPN, the International Olympic Committee believed “these new dates [would] give the health authorities and all involved in the organization of the Games the maximum time to deal with the constantly changing landscape and the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The IOC has limited the number of attendants and prioritized mask wearing and social distancing this year. The organization was struggling to procure vaccinations until last month when Pfizer and BioNTech agreed to donate doses for athletic participants.
Despite the secured supplies, vaccinations are not universally desired.
An unspecified number of athletes from the United Kingdom have refused the vaccination. They expressed concern that the “side effects of the vaccine – which can include tiredness, headaches and chills – might affect a crucial period of their training given the Games are due to begin in just under four weeks,” reported The Guardian.
“There are individuals who didn’t want to be vaccinated and we are trying to convince them it is the right thing to do,” said British Olympic Association chief executive Andy Anson. “’It is not mandatory, people have the right to choose and we have to respect that, but it’s not necessarily that helpful.”
Belgium has reported that 10 to 12 of its Olympic team members refused the second vaccination does because of similar concerns regarding potential negative impacts on their performances.
In March of 2021, two-time Olympic gold medalist Yohan Blake said ” I don’t want any vaccine, I’d rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine, I am not taking it.”
In a later video on Twitter, the Jamaican sprinter reiterated his decision, saying “Follow your mind, don’t follow the crowd.”
“At the same time, be respectful to each and every one. Don’t let no one take away your choice.”
Leanne Wong, the 17-year-old artistic gymnast who was named to Team USA as an alternate, might be the youngest unvaccinated athlete scheduled to appear in Japan.
Her mother and father, who is a medical director at a biotech company, have not said if their daughter will receive the Pfizer vaccine ahead of the Olympic Games, according to the Daily Beast.
Athletes participating in the Games will be tested for COVID-19 before departing their countries, after arriving in Japan, and each day of the competition. If an athlete test positive for the virus, they are not permitted to compete.
In their official rulebook, the IOC states that “as a result of collaboration and generous donations, more than 80 per cent of Olympic and Paralympic Village residents will be vaccinated ahead of the Games. The level of vaccination among other participants is also expected to be high.”
The IOC, the International Paralympic Committee, and the governments of Tokyo and Japan have agreed that participants in the games would not be required to be vaccinated.
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