TOKYO – (AP) – Japan began vaccinating athletes at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday, the Japanese Olympic Committee said.
The vaccination of healthy athletes comes from the fact that only 2-3% of the general population in Japan has been fully vaccinated. Japanese Olympic Committee officials said about 200 athletes were vaccinated at a training facility on the first day of the deployment.
Japanese Olympic Committee officials did not name any of the athletes. They also limited coverage of the event, possibly fearing a public backlash.
Japan Olympic Committee official Mitsugi Ogata said vaccination of young athletes will not affect distribution to the general population, including the elderly and medical personnel.
“The athlete vaccination operations are carried out in a different organization than the nation,” Ogata said.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23. The International Olympic Committee has said vaccination is not mandatory to participate in the Olympics. However, the IOC has encouraged all athletes to get vaccinated.
IOC President Thomas Bach said he believed more than 80% of the residents of the Olympic Village in Tokyo would be vaccinated.
Olympic officials say that vaccinating athletes will make the Japanese public feel more secure about hosting the Olympics. Opinion polls in Japan show that 50 to 80 percent of the Japanese public – depending on the wording of the question – is against holding the Olympics in July.
More than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from more than 200 countries and territories are expected to enter Japan, in addition to tens of thousands of judges, officials, media and broadcasters.
Many medical officials in Japan are opposed to holding the Olympics, seeing them as a potential super-spreading event. The IOC says it will be “safe and secure” and always refers to World Health Organization guidelines.
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