Australian Olympians to be given COVID-19 vaccine priority

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian athletes and support staff preparing for the Tokyo Olympics will be given priority for vaccines.

The Australian government on Tuesday said members of the Olympic team would be vaccinated under a priority group which includes health-care workers, Indigenous people aged over 55 and people older than 70.

The vaccination program for athletes and support staff will include about 2,000 people, including an estimated 450- 480 Olympic athletes.

Richard Colbeck, the government minister for senior Australians and aged care, said the decision would not come at the cost of at-risk Australians.

“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,” Colbeck said in a statement.

Some 1,969,337 vaccine doses have been administered in Australia, 205,203 of which were given in aged and disability care facilities.

Members of the Olympic contingent aged over 50 will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, while those under 50 will be given the Pfizer vaccine.

Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said the team would be vaccinated outside of the public health program “to ensure the vaccination of our athletes does not place any additional load on the public system.”

“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,” he said in a statement. “This added layer of assurance is what they were seeking.”

Nearby New Zealand announced last month that athletes competing in events of national significance could get early access to a coronavirus vaccine.

Athletes traveling to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics will be required to stay within a “bubble” consisting of the official accommodation, venues and training areas and will be tested for the coronavirus before and during their stay, but there is no requirement to be vaccinated ahead of competition.

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