The IOC has announced a Memorandum of Understanding with vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech to distribute doses of the coronavirus jabs to athletes ahead of the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games.
As part of the MoU, doses could be donated to Games participants by National Olympic and Paralympic Committees around the world, with national committees working with their local governments to coordinate distribution ‘in accordance with each country’s vaccination guidelines and consistent with local regulations’.
Additional doses delivered by Pfizer and BioNTech will ‘not be taken out of existing programmes’, according to the IOC, but will be in addition to existing quotas and planned deliveries around the world.
The IOC and IPC will also work with the national committees to ‘encourage and assist their athletes, officials and Games stakeholders’ to get vaccinated if they can before they go to Japan.
The IOC says that its policy is not only to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but ‘also out of respect for the residents of Japan’.
“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” said Thomas Bach, President, IOC.
“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. 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.
“We would like to thank Pfizer and BioNTech for this very generous donation to support the vaccination of athletes and Games participants ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO, Pfizer, added: “With hundreds of millions of vaccines already administered, and hundreds of millions more to go, Pfizer is committed, together with BioNTech, to doing all we can to help end this pandemic and help return the world to a sense of normalcy.
“The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games represents a monumental moment of world unity and peace after a gruelling year of isolation and devastation. We are proud to play a role in providing vaccines to athletes and their national Olympic delegations where possible.”
IPC President Andrew Parsons also welcomed the move. He said: “The IPC and IOC are taking every possible measure to ensure safe and successful Tokyo 2020 Games and the donation of vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech for teams heading to Japan will certainly help.
“Prior to this announcement, we estimated around 60 per cent of our NPCs would be vaccinated ahead of the Games. Thanks to this wonderful donation from Pfizer and BioNTech, we will now work with athletes and Games participants all around the world and invite them to take vaccines where and when possible.
“The IPC would like to thank the IOC for taking the lead in securing this MoU, and on behalf of the Paralympic Movement we are extremely grateful to Pfizer and BioNTech for this outstanding gesture.”