Olympic Athletes to Receive Vaccines Donated by Pfizer, BioNTech

Tokyo Olympic athletes and delegations will be able to receive Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE as organizers push ahead with preparations for the delayed games.

The International Olympic Committee signed an agreement with the companies to donate the doses, with the first delivery expected to begin at the end of this month, according to a statement from the drugmakers on Thursday. The statement did not specify the number of doses.

While the IOC has said vaccination is not a requirement for athletes to participate in the games, the spread of more contagious variants and the resurgence of infections in some countries have raised questions over the safety of holding the world’s biggest sporting event in less than three months.

Even with the decision to exclude foreign spectators, more than 60,000 athletes, coaches, national team staff, media representatives and other essential workers are expected to converge on Tokyo from more than 200 countries when the games start in July.

Public support is low in the host country, where just 1.4% of its population has been given doses -- the lowest among the 37 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

About 73% of those surveyed in Japan over April 17-18 said they were against holding the event this summer, according to a poll conducted by broadcaster ANN. As of Thursday, more than 100,000 people signed an online petition calling for the games to be called off.

With Covid cases on the rise, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters earlier in the day she would propose extending the state of emergency, set to end May 11, to the end of this month. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would decide Friday on the extension for the capital and three other regions.

The national Olympic committees will work with their local governments to coordinate local distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, the IOC said in a statement, while Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa welcomed the agreement. The IOC drew criticism from human rights activists in March after President Thomas Bach said that the organization was ready to pay for vaccines offered by China to protect athletes and officials from countries that have approved that nation’s shots.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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