A health worker administers the vaccine against the Moderna Covid-19 coronavirus during the first vaccination campaign of firefighters in Tokyo on June 8, 2021. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

About 18,000 Tokyo Olympics workers, including referees and volunteers, will be vaccinated starting next week, organizers said on Friday, as they try to build confidence the Games will be safe.

Just six weeks from the opening of the postponed Games in the event of a pandemic, officials are still battling national opposition and fear the event will spread the coronavirus.

Japan’s immunization program got off to a slow start and, while it is now gaining momentum, just over four percent of the population is fully vaccinated, with almost 13 percent having received a first dose.

Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto said she hoped the vaccinations would allow staff to “participate in event operations with peace of mind.”

The jabs will target those “who frequently interact with athletes,” she said.

They include referees, Olympic Village staff, employees and contractors, airport employees, doping control officials and assistants from the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

Some of the 70,000 volunteers will also be included, if they are expected to have regular close contact with the athletes.

Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Organizing Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, speaks at a press conference in Tokyo on June 11, 2021 (Photo by Yuichi Yamazaki / POOL / AFP)

Hashimoto said vaccinations would begin on June 18, with second doses given before the Games open on July 23.

Opinion polls tend to show that most Japanese people oppose holding the Games this year, in favor of a cancellation or rescheduling.

Organizers are trying to get their message across that strict restrictions will ensure the safety of participants and the Japanese public.

They have reduced the number of participants abroad and will require daily testing of athletes, including those already vaccinated.

Foreign fans have been banned and a decision on how many local spectators are allowed, if any, is expected later this month.

Parts of Japan, including Tokyo, are currently under a viral state of emergency set to end on June 20 as the number of infections decreases.


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