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Australia Government to fast-track COVID-19 vaccines for Olympic team athletes
The Federal Government is to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for the Australian Olympic team following National Cabinet agreeing to fast-track access for the 2,000-strong team and support crew.
The first of the nation’s Tokyo-bound athletes could receive their vaccinations as early as next week, with athletes and support staff prioritised for vaccination ahead of the Games in July.
About 2,050 Australian athletes and staff travelling to Japan for the Olympics and Paralympics will now be considered a priority group under 1b of the vaccine rollout, the federal government said on Tuesday.
Both Pfizer and AztraZeneca vaccines will be used to fully vaccinate the travelling delegation as some of the team members will be aged over 50.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) had been urging the Federal Government to prioritise vaccines for athletes after repeated delays in the rollout meant the initial target to fully vaccinate all citizens by October was abandoned.
Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, said vaccines for athletes would act as a safety assurance for those preparing to represent Australia on the world stage, advising “we want to see our athletes head to Tokyo to compete and then return to Australia safely.
Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) Chief Executive Matt Carroll described the decision as a "great relief" for the Olympians and their families, telling the ABC “it's a weight off their minds, they know with a vaccination they'll be safer from a health point of view and they'll now be able to really concentrate on the Games.”
In a later statement, Carroll added “there will be hundreds of very grateful athletes, coaches and their families relieved to know that their hard work over five years has been worth it
“This added layer of assurance is what they were seeking. The AOC will be working with our partners Aspen Medical on the logistics to ensure the vaccination of our athletes does not place any additional load on the public system.”
Reassuring Australians that the Olympic team’s vaccinations would not impact vulnerable people would still be looked after, Federal Sports Minister, Richard Colbeck explained “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
“This will be a very different Olympics and Paralympics but our athletes deserve the opportunity to compete.”
The rescheduled Tokyo Olympics are due to be held from 23rd July to 8th August, despite Japan facing a fourth wave of the Covid pandemic.
Australia had administered about 2 million doses of Covid vaccines as of Tuesday.
Phase 1b of the vaccination rollout includes people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 55, healthcare workers not covered in phase 1a and adults with underlying medical conditions.
Image: The Australian Olympic team launching its uniforms for the Tokyo Games in Sydney last month.
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23rd January 2021 - IOC insists Tokyo Olympics will not be cancelled because of COVID-19 pandemic
2nd January 2021 - Japanese Prime Minister insists Tokyo Olympics will go ahead in 2021
23rd December 2020 - Tokyo Olympics costs rise to US$15.4 billion
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