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Olympic Games: Australia debates whether athletes should skip the vaccine line

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a medical syringe and small bottle that says “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine”

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia is considering giving athletes and support staff priority in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine as the Tokyo Olympics approaches.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has asked the government to allow athletes to queue as the country’s national vaccination program struggles with roadblocks.

“The government is in direct contact with the AOC because of their proposal to vaccinate all athletes and auxiliary personnel of the Olympic team as a matter of priority,” said Sports Minister Richard Colbeck to the state broadcaster ABC.

Australia has restricted the launch of its favorite vaccine against AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 to those under 50 who have blood clotting concerns and further slowed its national vaccination program after the European Union blocked exports to the country.

Only 1.36 million vaccine doses had been administered as of Wednesday, well below the 4 million promised by the end of March.

The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled for July 23. However, Japan will expand emergency response measures to 10 regions as a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases casts doubt on whether the Games will take place.

Australian authorities recommend a booster to people receiving the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine after 12 weeks to maximize immunity.

For the Pfizer (NYSE 🙂 Vaccine, which Australia also uses, the authorities recommend a booster after three weeks.

Swimming Australia’s chief executive Alex Baumann said Thursday the country’s swimmers in Tokyo should prepare for the scenario in which they will no longer receive vaccines.

The Australian head of the Olympic Games, Ian Chesterman, told Reuters in March that the team did not want to “jump into the queue” during the rollout.

An AOC spokesman said it was in the “best interests of our Australian athletes” to arrive and return safely to Tokyo.

“Vaccination is an important part of that goal,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Colbeck said the government’s focus is on its vaccination roadmap, which is currently in the initial stages of vaccinating health and key workers, adults over 70 and other vulnerable groups.

“Ensuring that vulnerable Australians are vaccinated against COVID-19 first remains a priority for the Morrison government,” he said.

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