South Africa to vaccinate Tokyo-bound athletes to ensure ‘safe’ Games
‘Now clearer than ever Games would be safe for everyone participating’
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has confirmed that it has agreed to take up an International Olympic Committee (IOC) offer of Pfizer-BioNTech dose of the vaccine, reports insidethegames.biz.
The rollout has been discussed with the South African Government and will not impact the general public’s access to jabs, the SASCOC claims.
More than 55,500 people have died from COVID-19 in South Africa, while a variant of the virus first detected in the country continues to spread worldwide and cause serious disruption.
South Africans are also unable to travel to some places because of the varient.
South Africa has inoculated just one per cent of its population, but the SASCOC insists the athletes’ jabs will “not disrupt nor place any burden” on the Government’s plan to vaccinate South African citizens.
“Engagement with Government to vaccinate our athletes had long since commenced,” said Ravi Govender, acting chief executive of the SASCOC.
“The offer from the IOC and IPC [International Paralympic Committee] is therefore in line with SASCOC’s position that we take every precaution to ensure the safety of our athletes in delivering Team SA to the Tokyo Games.
“We are grateful for the support and facilitation by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Department of Health as well as the generosity of the IOC and IPC.”
The SASCOC said the rollout of the vaccines started with a test phase on Thursday (May 20) at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital where 31 members of the South African team were vaccinated.
The programme fully commences tomorrow at various vaccination sites throughout the country.
“The vaccination of athletes is not compulsory, however, this offer is a further intervention to ensure safe delivery of the Games,” a statement from the SASCOC read.
“The medical team from the Department of Health as well as SASCOC staff, are working together to contact the athletes and arrange vaccination dates and times to ensure that an efficient and smooth process is maintained.”
The SASCOC is the latest NOC to agree to benefit from the IOC’s inoculation scheme after the British Olympic Association on Friday (May 21) vowed to fully vaccinate all athletes and support staff before departing for Tokyo.
Under the terms of the IOC’s agreement with Pfizer, NOCs will be tasked with coordinating distribution with their respective Governments “in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations”.
The IOC has said vaccination will not be mandatory for athletes to compete at Tokyo 2020 but expects a “significant number” of participants will have received the jab before the Games.
Earlier this week, IOC President Thomas Bach claimed that more than 80 per cent of people in the Athletes’ Village would be vaccinated.
IOC vice-president John Coates claimed that it was now “clearer than ever” that the Games would be safe for everyone participating, as well as the general public in Japan.
At Rio 2016, South Africa collected 10 Olympic medals – including golds for sprinter Wayde van Niekerk and middle-distance runner Caster Semenya – as well as 17 at the Paralympics.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, before the Paralympics take place between August 24 and September 5.
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