Japan plans to prioritize its Olympic athletes for coronavirus vaccines, with the aim of getting them vaccinated before the opening of the Tokyo Games, postponed by the pandemic, on July 23, local media said Thursday.
The Japanese government has denied that such a plan is being considered, but said it would “closely monitor discussions” on protecting the health of athletes.
The move drew criticism online, with one Japanese Twitter user demanding, “Give it to my grandmother first!”
Vaccine rollout in Japan is progressing slowly, with just one million first doses given to medical workers to date since injections began in February.
Seniors won’t start receiving doses until next week, and so far Japan has only approved the Pfizer vaccine.
A date has not yet been set for the vaccination of the entire population, but the government is now considering giving both vaccines to Japanese athletes by the end of June, Kyodo news agency reported, citing anonymous government sources.
Private broadcaster Nippon TV and other outlets also reported on the plan, with some pointing out that the proposed schedule would mean healthy young athletes would finish their vaccinations before some of Japan’s older people.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said there was “no fact in the claim that the government is considering such a plan and the government has no plans to discuss it at this. Stadium.
But he told reporters that the government would “closely follow discussions on athlete health issues” between Olympic officials, Tokyo Games organizers and host city Tokyo.
Online, the reports have been criticized, with a Japanese Twitter user calling “all athletes to come out and say they won’t.”
“Are you going to thank the old and sick people who died because their vaccines were late for giving their lives for the Olympics?” another asked.
Japan has experienced a relatively small virus outbreak, with just over 9,200 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
But infections have recently increased in several parts of the country, including Osaka in western Japan, which has decided to ban the Olympic torch relay from public roads in the prefecture.
Polls show that a majority of Japanese want the Games canceled or postponed further, although support for them this year has increased slightly, to below 30%.
IOC President Thomas Bach said vaccination was not a requirement for athletes participating in the Tokyo Games, but Olympic officials would encourage participants to receive the vaccine.
The IOC plans to offer safe vaccines from China to athletes in countries without access.
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