Pfizer and BioNTech will donate Covid jabs to vaccinate athletes and officials at the Tokyo Olympics

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Pfizer and BioNTech will donate Covid shots to vaccinate athletes and officials competing in the Tokyo Olympics

  • The companies will work with national sports authorities to provide vaccines
  • Participants and staff traveling to Japan will have a chance before the Games
  • More than 11,000 athletes are expected to attend the Olympics this summer

US drug giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have announced a deal to supply vaccines to competitors and staff at the Tokyo Games.

In a statement, the companies said they would coordinate with national sports organizations to make sure coronavirus vaccines are available to anyone who needs one before traveling to Japan.

“Delivery of the first doses to the participating delegations is expected to begin at the end of May where possible, with the aim of ensuring that the participating delegations receive a second dose before arriving in Tokyo,” they said.

US drug giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced a deal to supply vaccines to competitors and staff at the Tokyo Games

The agreement was welcomed by IOC chairman Thomas Bach, who has already postponed the Tokyo Games last year due to the pandemic.

“We invite the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine wherever and whenever possible,” said Bach.

More than 11,000 athletes are expected to attend the games, which will take place from July 23 to August 8, but many already have vaccines in their home countries.

The IOC has been promising for months that the Olympics would be safe even without widespread vaccination, thanks to a range of health precautions.

The IOC has already said it will offer national delegations Covid-19 vaccines purchased from China.

The deal was welcomed by IOC President Thomas Bach (pictured), who has already postponed the Tokyo Games from last year due to the pandemic.

The deal was welcomed by IOC President Thomas Bach (pictured), who has already postponed the Tokyo Games from last year due to the pandemic.

But the deal with Pfizer is seen as important as Tokyo, and several Japanese regions are once again in a state of alert due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, amid persistent doubts about the wisdom of keeping the play.

Japan has already decided to ban spectators from abroad, and the chairman of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, told AFP last Friday that the Olympics could be held behind closed doors for the first time in their history.

With the Japanese hospital system already under severe pressure, Tokyo 2020 has been criticized for asking Japanese medical staff to work on the event, and Hashimoto said the absence of spectators could ease the pressure.

Japan has already decided to ban spectators from abroad for this summer's postponed Games

Japan has already decided to ban spectators from abroad for this summer’s postponed Games

In an effort to appease the skepticism of the Japanese public, organizers last week tightened anti-virus measures against both Olympic delegations and the media.

Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer and Ugur Sahin of BioNTech said their firms were proud to supply the vaccine – already the mainstay of Europe’s vaccination effort – to the Games.

“The return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games represents a monumental moment of world unity and peace after a grueling year of isolation and destruction,” Bourla said.

Bourla made the proposal to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last month when the two were holding phone calls during Suga’s visit to the US, Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa said.

“We have received a very important offer to continue with safe Games,” Marukawa told reporters in Tokyo.

The firms noted that it would be a decision by the governments of individual countries to allow or require the use of vaccines, but added that the shot has been approved by the EU, US, UK, Canada and other countries.

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