The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech, allowing athletes to get vaccinated before heading to Tokyo.
With the Summer Olympics set to begin on July 23, the IOC announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the COVID-19 vaccine-maker, with doses being donated to Olympic and Paralympic participants. National Olympic Committees will work with their local governments to coordinate the local distribution.
The IOC says that doses delivered by Pfizer and BioNTech will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world and won’t be taken out of existing programs.
Canadian athletes will be included in the plan, representing approximately 1,100 people. Canadian Olympic Committee CEO and Secretary General David Shoemaker called it an “important layer of protection for Canadian athletes in the lead up to and during the Games.”
“We were happy to learn from the IOC that Pfizer and BioNTech will donate vaccine doses for Tokyo 2020 Games participants,” said Shoemaker. “As most provinces begin vaccination of the general population, this announcement will help more Canadians receive vaccinations quicker. We thank the IOC, Pfizer and BioNTech for their support.”
“It is our expectation that we will be able to access these vaccines. We will be working with the IOC, Pfizer, BioNTech and relevant government agencies to confirm the details and next steps of the rollout in Canada.”
The IOC says it expects a “significant proportion” of Olympic Games participants will have been vaccinated before arriving in Japan.
“We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities.”
Due to the pandemic, the Olympics will look different this summer in several ways. International fans are not being allowed to travel to Japan, a country of over 126 million that, so far, has vaccinated only about 2% of its population.
Athletes will be given a long list of protocols to adhere to, including not being allowed to visit non-Olympic sites and leaving the country 48 hours after they’re done their events.