Olympic athletes, coaches to receive donated vaccine; about 75 on Island

Pfizer and BioNTech are donating COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate athletes and officials preparing for the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian Olympic Committee said it believes it will have access to donated vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech as part of an International Olympic Committee initiative. Delivery of doses is begin this month to give Olympic delegations time to be fully vaccinated with a second shot before arriving in Tokyo for the Games in July.

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David Shoemaker, CEO and secretary general of the COC, says his organization will work with government agencies to confirm details. “We were happy to learn from the IOC that Pfizer and BioNTech will donate vaccine doses for Tokyo 2020 Games participants. In Canada this represents approximately 1,100 people and will add an important layer of protection for Canadian athletes in the lead up to and during the Games,” Shoemaker said in a statement.

The COC has been saying that Canadian athletes would not jump the vaccine queue.

Whether he will be vaccinated ahead of the Tokyo Olympics is the No. 1 question people ask Canada rugby sevens player Pat Kay of Duncan. “That is the main concern of the people I know,” said the Cowichan Secondary graduate, training in Langford for the Tokyo Summer Games. “So this is great news.”

“This gives an added level of safety and health confidence,” said Kay, who returned to the Island with the national team this week from Dubai following international tournaments.

About 75 Island or Island-based athletes are preparing to compete. The Olympics are July 23 to Aug. 8 and Paralympics Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

“I was struggling with the ethics of receiving the vaccine ahead of vulnerable people,” said medal-touted Tokyo Olympics-bound rower Caileigh Filmer of Victoria. The Pfizer/BioNTech and IOC donation alleviates those concerns. “This relieves a lot of the stress and worries on several levels,” said Filmer, training with the Olympic team on Elk Lake. “It will also protect the Japanese volunteers and workers.”

Anti-Games sentiments, meanwhile, have been gaining ground in Japan, where just under two per cent of the population has been vaccinated. Almost 80 per cent of Japanese citizens in polls say they want the Olympics cancelled or postponed, and a petition titled “Cancel the Tokyo Olympics to protect our lives” has quickly gained tens of thousands of signatures.

— With files from The Associated Press

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